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.
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?