Can you pick out Jif from Skippy in a blind taste test? Did you laugh in the face of last year's contaminated peanut butter scare? Is your favorite sandwich peanut butter and jelly-- hold the jelly? You just might be a peanut butter lover-- and today is your day!
I live every day like it's National Peanut Butter Lovers Day; one of my guiltiest pleasures is eating the creamy store brand (confession #1) straight out of the jar with a spoon (confession #2). I came to the conclusion last Wednesday that I might have a problem after realizing that every meal I ate that day contained peanut butter: peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast, noodles and veggies with peanut sauce for lunch, and a peanut butter sandwich with an apple for a quick dinner-on-the-go, followed by peanut butter Newman-O's for dessert. If Betty Ford ever opens a peanut butter rehab center, I will be the first to check in.
Fortunately, I'm not alone. Peanut butter has a cult status in the US: the average American eats 3 pounds each year-- we're nuts for ground groundnuts! However, peanut butter just isn't as popular in other nations; I remember riding a train for 4 hours each direction during my college semester abroad just to pay $10 for a small jar of the stuff in an upscale Western supermarket in Moscow. Other cultures have been using peanuts for millenia-- think of West African peanut soup or an Asian peanut sauce-- but peanut butter is an American invention; credit for its discovery often goes to George Washington Carver, though no one knows for certain who first created it.
When eaten sensibly, peanut butter is an inexpensive vegetarian source of nutrition. Peanut butter is one of those healthy unhealthy foods: one serving (two tablespoons) contains 25% of the recommended daily amount of fat and 200 calories, but has 8 grams of protein and can have a decent amount of fiber too-- 10% RDA. The combination of protein and fats helps to keep you full.
Fun facts about peanut butter:
- The most common variety of peanut used to make peanut butter is the Runner peanut. Runner peanut plants produce uniform, medium-sized peanuts. Uniformity is important because it ensures even roasting.
- Commercial peanut butter is ground twice, since one long grind would produce enough heat to damage the flavor of the finished result. The initial grind involves only peanuts; additional ingredients like salt, sugar and stabilizers to keep the oil from separating are added on the second grind.
- Peanut butter was originally marketed as a source of protein for people with bad teeth.
- The Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich Shop in New York City is devoted to the art of the peanut butter sandwich, serving everything from the classic PB&J to the peanut butter BLT. My favorite is the Pregnant Lady: peanut butter and pickles.
- Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
- The Guber Burger, served at the former Wheel Inn in Sedalia, MO, was a hamburger with peanut butter. Other hamburger joints also serve this bizarre delicacy.
Not so fun fact about peanut butter:
- 3.3 million American suffer from nut allergies. The number of children with peanut allergies has doubled since 1997; Time magazine estimates that 1% of school-age children are afflicted.
What's your favorite way to enjoy peanut butter?
More nutty goodness:
- A history of peanut butter
- How to celebrate peanut butter lovers day
- Drool over Peanut Butter & Co's photos on Flickr
image by Yodel Anecdotal