You are 8 years old. It’s lunchtime at school. You grab your milk from the ‘lunch lady,’ pay your money (2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, depending on where you live and when this event is taking place), and sit down with your friends to eat. You open your Roy Rogers (or Davey Crockett or whoever) lunchbox or brown paper bag and pull out your sandwich and unwrap it. You look at your neighbor who is doing the same thing.
Both of you are going to have the same sandwich, aren’t you?
And it’s not liverwurst.
For those of us over a certain age, if we brought our lunches to school, chances are that it was peanut butter and jelly – and grape jelly at that. Not honey, strawberry jam, or marmalade.
Why is that? For that matter, how did peanut butter enter America’s kitchens and become a ubiquitous ingredient in everything from cookies to desserts of all sorts, Americanized Thai food, and other food products?
Why is it that in Europe, Nutella (a spread made of hazelnuts and chocolate) is a huge success, whereas in the US, the peanut butter version of it has, no matter who brought it out or how compounded, been a crashing failure?
Why is it that most of us grew up eating this stuff by the fistful, somehow got to adulthood, and did not know anyone who was allergic to it, and yet our children and grandchildren go to ‘peanut-free’ schools where snack instructions are sent home yearly and where everyone seemingly has a tale of someone they know who ended up in the hospital and nearly died?
What happened to peanut butter? And what does this tell us in terms of US agriculture, the food industry, and our health?
Jon Krampner, FDL’s own bluewombat, has taken the enthusiast’s microscope to peanut butter in the US, scooping out the soft underbelly of the American peanut processing industry, spreading himself thickly over the history of peanut growing and harvesting in this country, and chewing through the sometimes crunchy (and sometimes rather sticky) information on this almost quintessential American food. A lifelong PB lover, Jon has worked on this book for six years, interviewing leading figures from the peanut and peanut butter industries, immersing himself in library stacks and the internet, making several trips to the peanut-growing regions of the South and even trying to wrap his head around the organic chemistry of hydrogenating peanut butter.
As usual, I will remind everyone that we are all polite adults here. Let’s keep everything on topic, which is: Peanut Butter!
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]