Peanut Butter: A Revolutionary Divide

Would you like some oatmeal with that peanut butter?

My mom looked down at our floor and said, “What is that down there?” Yes, she had found our large box of peanut butter which we order in bulk online direct from the company. With the peanut butter scare a while back, you’d think that would decrease our peanut butter use, but we have a favorite company, which was not part of the scare, and so our habits continued. We go through about one small container of peanut butter per week – hence the need to buy in bulk. We put it in oatmeal in the morning, and admittedly, sometimes the oatmeal tastes more peanut buttery than oatmealy. Still working out the balance.

There have been two big peanut butter debates that I’m fascinated by:

Crunchy vs. Smooth
We’re a crunchy household, although I grew up in a smooth household. My dad would eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon (seems to be a more common practice than I realized at the time). In my adulthood though, I really prefer crunchy, especially in oatmeal. I even find crunchy goes nicely in baked goods, like peanut butter cookies. Adds a little nice texture to things. But I know that people have a great passion either for or against crunchy peanut butter.

Global Availability
When I was in college, I studied abroad for a year in England. In addition to getting used to the new culture and new foods, I also had to get used to the attitude towards peanut butter. Americans are so used to growing up with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a staple of their diets, that it shocked me that Britons generally don’t like peanut butter. They don’t understand our obsession with it, and would never, ever, understand putting it with chocolate (one of my personal favorite combinations).

I distinctly remember one of my flatmates thinking it was disgusting that I was eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup.To which I responded that I thought black pudding was way more disgusting. He disagreed. The local market did offer peanut butter, but I know that there are some places that it is just not available. So what makes American food culture so open to the idea of peanut butter?

According to peanut butter history, it’s always been an American obsession, having been created and perfected here. For all the similarities between England and “the colonies,” I think that food, and certain foods in particular, continue to be enduring distinctions between the two cultures. Every morning when I have my oatmeal with peanut butter I think about how my morning routine might have been different if I had grown up in another country. And more importantly, what would I be putting in my oatmeal?

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  • Maids May 26, 2009  

    what company do you get your bulk peanut butter from?

  • Lyndsey May 26, 2009  

    It’s Crazy Richard’s – available at
    And the shipping is free!

  • 80 Proof May 26, 2009  

    I have to say, as person who just re-found his love for PB&J’s, that natural peanut butter is the devil’s food. I grew up on the fake stuff and natural peanut butter just doesn’t do it for me, at all.

  • BS May 26, 2009  

    So with you, 80. My parent’s only bought the natural stuff, and now the only thing I want is Skippy. CRUNCHY. no argument.

  • gansie May 26, 2009  

    this is kinda embarrassing, but ive never tried chunky peanut butter. is it that much better?

  • Maids May 27, 2009  

    I hate fake peanut butter. I think it doesn’t even taste like peanuts. BTW, Lyndsey, Crazy Richards is one of my favorite brands. Just the right touch of salt. Mmmmm.
    But I do smooth.
    Also wanted to add, when I was a tot and I came home from school, my rents would ask me what I wanted for a snack and 9 times outta 10 I would ask for “peanut butter on a spoon.”

  • gansie May 27, 2009  

    sometimes i dont want food-like products (pollan-speak) to actually taste like the food it represents.

    i want potato chips to taste like chips, not a freaking potato. same thing with peanut butter, i want it to taste like peanut butter, not a peanut. this may also explain why for years i loved peanut butter, hated peanuts and had no idea why.

    sure, i know this is not the forward-way to think, especially as i’m currently reading in *defense of food*. but you know what, if i have a spoonful of peanut butter and then most other days i eat the bounty of local farmers, i think i’m doing okay.

  • erica May 28, 2009  

    ok i’m just throwing this in because I was so amazed when I discovered it: if you mix straight raising bran with peanut butter, the raising bran remains crunchy. ‘course it was peanuts-only peanut butter, not Jiff, but it would probably still work. I’m a crunchy girl myself, it just tastes a lot better somehow. i get mine from a bulk bin, i do have to say it SUCKS to stir the damn 5 gal bucket of peanut butter. i have no idea what brand.

  • erica May 28, 2009  

    ech – raisin bran. someday i will learn to proofread.

  • amy July 4, 2009  

    best alternative? sunflower butter. during the scare, thats all i had!

  • Hugz April 10, 2011  

    Firstly, love love LOVING your blog. I just found it and it is definitely helping to preserve my sanity, while up at random hours of the day feeding my new bub.

    Secondly, if you were here (Australia), you wouldn’t be calling it “Oatmeal”, but instead, Porridge. And my favourite thing to have on porridge is dried apple, sultanas, brown sugar and cinnamon. YUM!

    As for the peanut butter, I never knew you could get “fake stuff. Maybe it is an American thing? The only peanut butter I’ve ever had is the stuff that is just mushed up peanuts (sometimes with a little salt or oil in). I tried a PB and J when I was in Seattle a few years back and YUCK! I also don’t have a preference between smooth or crunchy PB. I always keep both kinds in my house. Smooth for the kiddies sandwiches, crunchy for my Satay sauce.

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