Sunday, December 09, 2012
Book Review: Creamy and Crunchy
By Jon Krampner
Published by Columbia University Press, November 2012
There is always at least one jar of peanut butter in our house. Whether it is slathered on toast, eaten straight from the jar with a long-handled spoon, made into sandwiches or used in baking, someone in our house eats peanut butter at least once a week.
We take it for granted, but know very little about it - or at least that was the case until I started to read this book. Peanut butter is popular here in the UK, but exponentially so in the USA, its home, and Jon Krampner sets out to give us a complete biography of the humble peanut.
The first chapter, Peanut 101, tells us the basics, including where and how the plant grows, what sort of soil it needs, the fact it is native to South America originally and that it is one of the plants that replenishes the nutrients in the soil rather than constantly depleting nutrients. It is a remarkable achievement to make the biology and popular rise of the peanut such an absorbing read, but Krampner succeeds brilliantly.
The use of peanut butter as an upper-class health food at sanatoria was a revelation; it was particularly espoused by the Kellogg family who thought it a perfect vegetarian food and filed a patent in 1895 for the production of the first commercial product as well as producing advertisements to promote its use. The production methods, advertising, supply and diversity of peanut butter products are all covered in this comprehensive book and interspersed with the story are many recipes and photographs.
Each page drew me further and further in to the remarkable story of how the peanut became such an integral part of American life and then spread its reach worldwide, transcending class and cultural barriers with ease to become an everyday household item for so many families.