Saturday, May 17, 2008
Condiment of the Week: Peanut Butter
Aussies have their Vegemite. The French have their Dijon mustard. Nothing is more iconic to the American diet than Peanut Butter. Occupying the selves of over 75 percent of American pantries, it's a part of our cultural heritage. Almost half of the peanut crops in the United States wind up in a jar of peanut butter.
Like many kids growing up, I ate my share of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunches (or as an alternative to salmon patties). Each parent has his/her own way of making PB&J--to be branded in childhood memory. On those lazy summer days in the old neighborhood, my friend and I took advantage of out parents' techniques to add variety to our lunchtime PB&J and popsicle.
Whenever we were in the mood for peanut butter and grape jelly on white bread with a dash of butter, we would hit my friend's house and run through the sprinkler in her backyard to beat the noontime heat.
We would eat my mother's peanut butter and peach preserves on whole wheat on other days. After, we would play on my backyard swing set--occasionally being summoned to help her nudge out a neighborhood English sheepdog from the living room. He fell violently in love with the cool hardwood floors and box fan one hot afternoon in July when he escaped the confines of his backyard two houses down. (No one in our neighborhood had air conditioning. Everyone left the front and back doors open--along with every window--to increase air circulation in the desert heat.) My mother would pull his paws from the front and we would push from behind as the pooch skidded across the floor, yowling his protests. One time, we failed to push him out the door and he rested like a big bear rug until his owner called out "Chewbacca" a few minutes later.
My family patriotically consumes peanut butter in other forms. My father makes a mean batch of peanut-butter fudge. (He also makes peanut brittle and peanut patties, thank you very much.) Some of my friends introduced me to peanut curry--with a dash of peanut butter. I also love Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. My mother makes a mean batch of peanut-butter cookies as well.
When I was a Girl Scout, I was the local supplier of peanut-butter Tagalong cookies in the spring. (Years after I left Girl Scouts for tap lessons, family friends would still call asking if oh, please dear God, you could join for a couple of months to sell us some Tagalogs, do you have any little friends still in Scouts who can sell us twenty or so cases?
My father introduced me to further peanut-butter experimentations, such as peanut butter and mustard sandwiches, and even--don't gag--peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Indeed, my dad passed along his wisdom gained in collegiate dorm life to his impressionable daughter regarding the multifaceted uses of the popular protein supplement.