In praise of peanut butter

  • A jar of peanut butter. Wikimedia Commons/NIAID

  • Andy Castillo Staff Illustration/Andy Castillo

  • Peanut butter Wikimedia Commons/PiccoloNamek—

Staff Writer
Published: 10/16/2019 10:18:33 AM

Editor’s note: Some people have extreme allergies to peanut butter. This column isn’t intended to discount or otherwise make light of those dangerous health implications.

Of all the flavors in the world, there’s nothing that can compare to the sweet and salty taste of peanut butter. Primarily a southern crop, each acre yields enough edible seeds to make about 30,000 sandwiches each year.

Growing up, my seven brothers and I probably ate about a third of that number. We ate it for breakfast, after-breakfast snack, pre-lunch snack, lunch, post-lunch snack, pre-dinner snack, dinner and post-dinner snack.

Over time, I became a peanut butter connoisseur, and today, I speak as a self-proclaimed expert on all things peanut-butter-sandwich-consumption.

Despite their name, peanuts aren’t nuts. Instead, they’re legumes, similar to beans or peas and grow underground in sturdy pods. Peanut butter is made by grinding dry roasted peanuts into a thick paste. A common misconception about the product is that it was invented by George Washington Carver, an American agricultural scientist and professor. While it’s true that he invented over 300 uses for peanuts, peanut butter had already been patented by the time Carver began working.

The average modern American eats about three pounds of peanut butter per person each year — that’s enough spread to completely cover the Grand Canyon’s rocky floor, according to the website peanutbutterlovers.com.

Each serving provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, high amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, bone-building magnesium, muscle-friendly potassium and immunity-boosting vitamin B6.

On top of those notable health benefits, it’s cheap.

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, peanut butter typically sells for $2.50 per 16-ounce jar. If each jar makes an estimated 12 sandwiches, that’s a little more than $0.20 for each sandwich (not counting the bread).

Most people prefer their peanut butter spread evenly on a thick slice of fresh white bread and slathered with sticky marshmallow. But that’s not the only way to enjoy it.

One alternative is to exchange the marshmallow with jam or jelly. Toasting the bread can add another dimension. Nutella is also a great option, as I discovered early on.

When I was young, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, Mom often brought my brothers and I with her shopping at Price Rite discount grocery store. She usually purchased the store brand peanut butter (smooth, never chunky).

Sometimes, however, we went to The Barn Grocery Store in Greenfield and sifted through shelves of salvaged groceries that were almost expired, or had recently expired but weren’t that bad yet.

It was there, somewhere in the canned food aisle, that I first held a jar of Nutella, a hazelnut spread; Mom, subsequently, said we could buy it. The experience was life-changing and I’ve been a faithful Nutella consumer ever since.

Of all these wonderful alternatives to marshmallow, perhaps my favorite is honey, which I began pairing out of necessity during Air Force basic military training a few years ago. Throughout, I and the other Airmen weren’t given adequate time to eat enough protein. We were allotted less than 10 minutes to eat during meals. I was frustrated by this predicament until one day, about halfway through training, when I grabbed a dozen or so individual cups of peanut butter and ate them straight.

My bid proved effective. By the time the drill instructor burst into the room screaming, face reddened, I’d managed to lick clean about eight containers. Before running back to formation, I filled my mouth with the remaining cups, and later enjoyed a few morsels on the sly while standing at attention. This became my routine, first because of the nutritional benefits, and also because of the spiteful satisfaction that came with doing something the instructors said not to do.

After a few weeks, however, I began to tire of straight peanut butter. Enter honey — a sweet addition to peanut butter’s salty goodness. I mixed things up by adding packets of honey to my routine. That combination is now a staple in my diet and deserves mention here.

With that being said, I recognize that not everyone is as experimental as I am when it comes to their peanut butter sandwiches, preferring marshmallow above all. If that’s the case, then pairing peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches with other foods is also a good option.

For example, a sandwich dipped in a bowl of steaming Ramen noodle soup creates a robust flavor, lingering doubly as long as the sandwich on its own. I learned about that combination as a child because I could always find those two foods in the cupboard.

A cold tall glass of diluted powdered milk has the opposite effect of a sandwich and soup — offsetting the savory peanut butter with a succinct round aftertaste. This is a tradition I continue today in large part because it’s a healthy meal that I can make on the run (with bottled milk these days).

Today, I continue to eat sandwiches because of their health benefits.

When spread on wheat bread with a little bit of jam, a carbohydrate and sugar respectively, a peanut butter sandwich is a great energy-boosting meal. But it’s not just about that. I continue to eat peanut butter for a more important reason.

Peanut butter’s sweet, savory, delicious taste reminds me of milk, which reminds me of noodle soup, which in turn reminds me of my brothers and the house where we all grew up. Because of those reasons, I’ll eat peanut butter until the day I die.

Andy Castillo is the features editor at the Greenfield Recorder. He can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.




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