The secret of peanut butter

When I was 13 years old, I used to wake up for school around 7:00 a.m. and stumble downstairs to the kitchen table.

I would open the Kansas City Star sports page, go to my page of my choice, and put my breakfast plate on top of the inky newsprint.

This next part is not meant for exaggeration. It’s not meant for effect. It’s the truth.

I ate Eggo waffles with peanut butter every day. Every single day. Seriousy. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday… and so on. Every day.

Until that point in my life, peanut butter had mostly been a minor story line.

Sure, I ate a childhood’s worth of PB&Js. And occasionally, my mom would put out some celery and peanut butter.

But for the most part, I strayed away from the gooey brown stuff. Chunky? Creamy? Didn’t matter.

But for some reason — and I can’t remember the exact day or year — one of my fellow schoolyard scamps passed along one of the greatest secrets of my life.

Peanut butter. Waffles. Syrup. Magic.

*****

So you might have guessed that this is a post about peanut butter.

Seriously — peanut butter.

If you walk into my kitchen today, you will find a jar of peanut butter. If you walk into my kitchen tomorrow, you will find peanut butter. If you walk into my kitchen next year, you will find peanut butter.

So, yea, I effing love peanut butter.

And the other day, as I was lathering some of the old goo onto a piece of wheat bread, I began to think about the chemically processed paste on my knife?

What is this stuff? What am I eating? And why do I love it so much?

The ingredients in peanut butter are actually pretty simple.

Peanuts. Dextrose (a simple sugar). Hydrogenated vegetable oil (the bad stuff). (cotton seed and/or rapeseed) and salt. Sometimes food companies will add sugars. Sometimes molasses. Sometimes not.

The history of peanut butter is, in fact, slightly more interesting.

The highlights for you people with slow attention spans:

-The Chinese, according to some sources, crushed peanuts into a creamy substance for centuries. Africans used peanutes in stews. There’s examples of soldiers eating something called peanut porridge in the 19th century.

-But the real breakthrough, the real story of modern-day peanut butter, begins in the late 19th century.

-Multiple folks — one of the Kellogg guys, a Canadian dude, some St. Louis physician — began to concoct different methods for preparing something called ‘nut meal.’

-According to one story, a man named C.H. Sumner became the first to introduce peanut butter to the world at the Universal Exposition of 1904 in St. Louis.

(Way to go Mr. Sumner!)

More than 100 years later, kids are still eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and kids still make peanut butter and pine cone birdfeeders. And a peanut butter spinoff — a product called plumpy’nut is being used to fight malnutrition around the world.

*****

Now I must confess.

I eat peanut butter… a lot.

I eat peanut and honey sandwiches. I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ll mix it with oatmeal, and cereal (sometimes with honey), and bananas, and apples, and celery.

I’ve started adding a small scoop to my morning coffee (weird, right?), and just the other day I smeared some peanut butter and cool whip on a graham cracker for a snack. (Don’t judge).

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned toast and bagels and English muffins and (gasp) tortillas.

Not sure why peanut butter on tortillas never caught on. I can understand if you’re eating authentic flour tortillas, the real chalky ones, then perhaps the flavors and texture might not match.

But, hell, if I don’t have any bread or cereal or oatmeal, and I want to eat some damn peanut butter, I’m slapping some on a tortilla, adding a dab of honey and calling the damn thing good. Capiche?

*****

So this is the part of the post where I must use peanut butter as a metaphor, as a motif, as a literary device — anything that will help you understand me.

This is where I tell you what my love of peanut butter actually MEANS…

But here’s the thing: I’m not sure.

It may mean that I am simple.

And I am. It doesn’t take much to make me content — a warm day; a good book; a good conversation; a long run; a funny joke, and so on.

It may mean that I am lazy.

And I am. I don’t count this as a bad thing, of course. And maybe I’m not actually lazy, compared to the average person. But sometimes I feel lazy. Because even when I am working and working and working, I always feel like I should be doing something more. And peanut butter feeds the beast. Peanut butter is fast, it’s instant — it’s a meal in a couple of scoops or a couple of swipes across a piece of bread.

It may mean that I am nervous.

And I am. It’s hereditary, and it’s part of who I am. My dad is one of the most anxious people I’ve ever met. He wakes up a 5:30 a.m., and he’s constantly moving, constantly nibbling, constantly doing stuff. Peanut butter is nervous food. You don’t enjoy peanut butter. You just eat it. And then it’s over. And it’s on to the next thing.

It may mean that I am laid-back.

And I am. And peanut butter is laid-back. Peanut butter is not fancy. Peanut butter is sack lunch, not Lunchables. Peanut butter is Russell Robinson, not Mario Chalmers. Peanut butter is Orlando Pace, not Terrell Owens. Peanut butter is John Cusack, not Charlie Sheen.

Peanut butter is plain and filling and cheap and (sort of) healthy.

Peanut butter can complement so many sweet things — jelly, and honey, and syrup, and chocolate — and here it is, day after day, always in the cupboard, waiting to be spread, waiting to be licked off the spoon, waiting to be stuck to the roof of your mouth.

And so, without shame, without pretense, without anything, I’ll say it again…

I think I’ll go make another PB&J.

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