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Jon Krampner

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Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal Hist. of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food
by Jon Krampner   

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Publisher:  Columbia University Press ISBN-10:  0231162324


Copyright:  November 27, 2012 ISBN-13:  9780231162326

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"Creamy and Crunchy" is the first pop-culture history of peanut butter, providing a lively and engaging look at one of America's favorite comfort foods.

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Creamy and Crunchy
Creamy and Crunchy

More than Mom’s apple pie, peanut butter is the all-American food. With its rich, roasted-peanut aroma and flavor, caramel hue, and gooey, consoling texture, peanut butter is an enduring favorite, found in the pantries of at least 75 percent of American kitchens. Americans eat more than a billion pounds a year. According to the Southern Peanut Growers, a trade group, that’s enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon (although the association doesn’t say to what height).


Americans spoon it out of the jar, eat it in sandwiches by itself or with its bread-fellow jelly, and devour it with foods ranging from celery and raisins (“ants on a log”) to a grilled sandwich with bacon and bananas (the classic “Elvis”). Peanut butter is used to flavor candy, ice cream, cookies, cereal, and other foods. It is a deeply ingrained staple of American childhood. Along with cheeseburgers, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies (and apple pie), peanut butter is a consummate comfort food.


Creamy and Crunchy features the stories of Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan, the plight of black peanut farmers, the resurgence of natural or old-fashioned peanut butter, the reasons why Americans like peanut butter better than (almost) anyone else, the five ways that today’s product is different from the original, the role of peanut butter in fighting Third World hunger, and the Salmonella outbreaks of 2007 and 2009, which threatened peanut butter’s sacred place in the American cupboard.


To a surprising extent, the story of peanut butter is the story of twentieth-century America, and Jon Krampner writes its first popular history, rich with anecdotes and facts culled from interviews, research, travels in the peanut-growing regions of the South, personal stories, and recipes.



John Garwood, a young boy in Carroll, Nebraska, about this time, later recalled Roberts’ Grocery there as “a mystic alchemy of smells – coffee, fresh bread, soap, spices, fruit, an oiled floor, grains and new leather. And then,” he adds, “there was peanut butter. With a heavy spoon, Mr. Roberts would ladle a couple of pounds from the large wooden tub. It wasn’t labeled chunky, super-chunky, regular, smooth, free of salt or sugar. There was just the sight and smell of the raw sin of all that peanut butter.”

On one occasion at home, Garwood added, “My mother – anxious, I suspect, about our apple snatching in the high branches – called my friend and me down for a surprise. Inside a small box covered with a dish towel was punch, freshly baked bread and peanut butter. I noticed the misty look in my friend’s eyes. As we finished and lay back on the grass, there was a peace that passes all understanding.”

While peanut products were becoming increasingly popular, there were holdouts. One evening in 1921, well after midnight, Joseph Burstein of Brooklyn’s Coney Island came home, woke his wife up and insisted she help him finish a bag of peanuts he’d bought on sale. As The Peanut Promoter noted, “she declined to share the succulent goobers.” “This seemed to enrage him,” Mrs. Burstein said, “and he emptied the bag in my face and forced me to swallow some of the nuts. He became abusive and finally ran out, only to return later, when he packed up his belongings and stayed away for three days.” Mrs. Burstein filed for divorce.

Her aversion notwithstanding, peanut butter production took off in the first 20 years of the Twentieth Century. Two million pounds were produced in 1899; by 1907, that had grown to about 32 million pounds. In 1911, production declined to 23 million pounds, possibly because it was an El Nino year, with attendant drought and decreased agricultural production.

But when the U.S. entered World War I, the government encouraged Americans to eat more peanuts and less wheat, as grain was needed by our European allies and the American armed forces. An ad for Beech-Nut peanut butter called it “a new patriotic way to conserve animal fats.” There were also practical considerations: Andrew F. Smith has noted, “As transportation space was limited by the war effort and unshelled nuts wasted valuable shipping space, demand grew for peanut products, such as peanut butter, that could be easily transported.”

In 1914, 537,000 acres of peanuts were grown in the South; by 1918, that figure had risen to 4 million acres. In 1919, at the end of World War I, peanut butter production was 158 million pounds, nearly quintuple that of 1907. A 1919 article in The Peanut Promoter noted, “The consumption of peanut butter during the last three years more than equals that of all the previous years combined.”

But that wasn’t enough for some in the peanut butter industry. In 1923, ten years before he founded Skippy, Joseph Rosefield of Alameda, California was making Luncheon brand, an unstabilized peanut butter. “Peanut butter is only eaten by a small percentage of our population,” he wrote in a peanut industry trade publication. “It should now be our effort to bring it to the attention of the general public so that it may, in time to come, be a common article of diet.” Peanut butter had achieved a measure of popularity. But despite national brands on the market such as Beech-Nut and Heinz, it was a mostly local and regional phenomenon. It might have remained so if not for Rosefield and an obscure inventor from Pittsburgh...

Professional Reviews

Fast-Paced and Entertaining
'Creamy and Crunchy' is a fast-paced, entertaining, and wonderfully gossipy look at the history of everything about peanut butter, from nutrition to allergies and genetic modification -- and with recipes, yet. Everyone who loves peanut butter will want to read this book (personally, I prefer crunchy).

-- Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition , Food Studies and Public Health at New York University and author of "What to Eat"

Delightful and Action-Packed
Jon Krampner's 'Creamy and Crunchy' is a delightful book about American's most popular nut butter and sandwich spread. It is action-packed, peopled with medical professionals, corporate giants, captains of industry, hard-hitting advertisers, vegetarians and health-food advocates, and farmers and peanut-butter lovers. It is a well-written, fast-paced, surprising tale about the delicious food we thought we knew. One nibble and you can't stop reading!

-- Andrew F. Smith, author of "Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea"

Witty, Encyclopedic
'Creamy and Crunchy' is a witty, encyclopedic history of one of American's most iconic processed foods. It's chock-full of fun facts and surprising insights into the way we eat today.

-- Aaron Bobrow-Strain, author of "White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf"

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