by Betty Dravis
Today is a sticky day, but what day isn’t for a writer? But this is an especially sticky day… I feel a craving coming on and am compelled to write a blog about peanut butter!
No, it’s not National Peanut Butter Day; that falls on January 24th. It’s not Peanut Butter Lover’s Day; that falls on March 1st. It’s not National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day; that’s April 2nd.
Heck, it isn’t even National Peanut Day. That was on September 13th; I missed that one by exactly two months!
For fun and mischief, I’m posting a cartoon depicting peanut butter and jelly as best friends. However, being somewhat of a romantic, I like to think of them as sweethearts. If that’s the case, then ol’ peanut butter must be the male of the two because he often gets fickle and pairs up with marshmallow, or honey, or grated apple. But he always sees the light and comes back to his true love––jelly! And millions of people agree that that’s the best, tastiest pairing possible.
I Googled “peanut butter” to find out who invented that delectable pb&j sandwich and other tidbits of info to share with Dames of Dialogue fans and was shocked to find over thirteen million entries. Well, now my blog will make thirteen million and one!
Yikes, I could write forever about this popular food. Instead I’ll share the bare bones about its origin: Africans ground peanuts into stews as early as the 15th century; the Chinese have crushed peanuts into creamy sauces for centuries; Civil War soldiers dined on “peanut porridge.” These uses, however, bore little resemblance to peanut butter as it is known today––and that’s what our readers are interested in, I’m sure.
Our grand, golden, smooth peanut butter started out in 1890 as a lowly “ground paste,” eaten as a nutritious protein substitute by people with poor teeth who couldn’t chew meat. It evolved from a paste to “nut butter” or “nut meat” when the Kellogg brothers, who later became famous for cereal, began experimenting and selling it.
Peanut butter spawned several businesses along the way but it didn’t gain broad acceptance until C.H. Sumner introduced it to the world at the Universal Exposition of 1904 in St. Louis. He sold a “whopping” $705.11 of the treat at his concession stand and peanut butter was on its way to becoming an American favorite! Grocers across America were selling bulk peanut butter in large wooden tubs to satisfy their customers’ demands.
I won’t bore you with more about peanut butter’s evolution, but here are a few important historical facts:
- Krema Products Company in Columbus, Ohio began selling peanut butter in 1908 and is the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today.
- In 1922, Joseph L. Rosefield began selling a number of brands of peanut butter in California.
- Swift & Company’s brand name for this product was E.K. Pond peanut butter, renamed Peter Pan in 1928. In 1932, a company official had a dispute with Peter Pan and began producing peanut butter under the Skippy label the following year.
- In 1955, Procter & Gamble entered the peanut butter business by acquiring W.T. Young Foods in Lexington, Kentucky, makers of Big Top Peanut Butter. They introduced Jif in 1958 and now operate the world’s largest peanut butter plant, churning out 250,000 jars every day.
As for trivia, did you know?
- The two major peanut producers in the US are, in order, Georgia and Texas; peanuts are also Georgia’s official state crop, with at least 50% of the production being used for peanut butter.
- An 18oz jar of peanut butter needs 850 peanuts to be made.
- The USA produces about 6% of the world’s crop of peanuts: by comparison India and China, together, produce about 70%.
- The world’s largest peanut is 20 feet tall, and it’s currently kept in Turner County, Georgia.
- Americans eat 700 million pounds every year (3lbs per person), which could theoretically cover the entire floor of the Grand Canyon.
- Americans on the West Coast prefer chunky peanut butter, whereas those on the East Coast like it creamy.
- The reason peanut butter sticks to your mouth is that its high protein content absorbs moisture.
- Peanut butter was almost never used outside the US until 1960.
- The average American boy eats 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches before reaching the age of 18.
- Due to its high fat and protein content, peanut butter is used as base emergency food for famine-stricken countries.
- The world’s largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich was created November 6, 1993 in Peanut, Pennsylvania and was 40 ft long. It contained 150 lbs of peanut butter and 50lbs of jelly.
- 96% of people, when making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, put the peanut butter on before the jelly.
- Adults actually consume more peanut butter than kids.
- The US market for peanut butter amounts to 800 million dollars per year.
- The most popular brands in the US are Jif and Skippy.
But why all the hype about peanuts and peanut butter? Ask anyone and they will tell you: people love the protein in peanuts, but they love that golden sticky sandwich spread even more…with or without jelly.
When my kids were growing up, peanut butter was a staple in our home. They loved it! Couldn’t live without it. Of my six children, some liked pb with jelly, some without; some liked it on crackers and on celery sticks too. And we all liked peanut butter cookies, pb fudge and pb truffles. “Good fixin’s,” as my mother used to say.
That stuff is even good straight from the jar. On separate occasions, I caught each of my kids with a spoon, eating it straight from the jar (and they may have caught me, but I’ll never tell…).
Daughter Debbie used to mix it in a cup with chocolate syrup and practically drink it…like the girl in the accompanying photo.
Doesn’t that look yummy?
As much as we all loved pb, none of us took it to the level of the mischievous boy in this photo, but of course, I was much more attentive than the mother of that child. I would have caught my Bobby long before he made a living sandwich of himself. All I can say is: if the parents of that kid had had a dog, he would have been licked to pieces, and tickled in the bargain… LOL
Now for some odd uses of peanut butter… Did you know that peanut butter and mayonnaise on crackers was popular in Georgia in the early 30’s? That sounds yucky to me, but I’ve never been a mayo lover. And as for Elvis Presley favoring fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, I find that double yucky…and I do like bananas. King or no King, he can have it!
I’ve saved the part of how jelly came to be paired with our beloved peanut butter for near the end of this story because it ties in with the quirky taste of a family friend.
Well, here it is, dear reader: We can credit the creation of the delicious pb&J sandwich to American soldiers during World War II (1941–1945). Since both peanut butter and jelly were on the U.S. Military ration menus, it is said that the American soldiers added jelly to their peanut butter to make it more palatable. Peanut butter provided an inexpensive and high protein alternative to meat for soldiers. It was an instant hit and returning servicemen made peanut butter and jelly sales soar in the United States. Food historians haven’t found any ads or other mentions of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before the 1940s, so it must be true. That’s another debt we owe to those brave men.
Which brings us to our family friend John Manha and his favorite way of devouring his pb&j. I discovered his secret quirk when he asked me to make him a pb&j. I prepared it the way I always prepared it for my children––with about a tablespoon of jelly, spread evenly. He took one bite, turned up his nose and said, “Where’s the jelly?” When I looked puzzled, he said, “I like a lot of jelly with my pb.” (By the way, he is a Reese’s peanut butter man!)
I added two more tablespoons and he still asked for more. Eight huge, dripping tablespoonfuls later and he was a happy man! Now that’s a lot of jelly, as you can see from the accompanying photos.
What a character, but he knows what he likes and isn’t afraid to ask for it! I always wondered why everyone continues to call him Johnny-Boy when he’s a grown man. Now I know! LOL
Just another example of how nuts we nutty Americans are over our peanut butter and to what lengths we will go to eat it our way…