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Our Daily Spread : A Butter With a Following

March 10, 1994|KATHIE JENKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was 2 a.m. at the Ralphs on Laurel Canyon and Pamela Holdridge was leaning into the freezer, frantically poking through the Haagen Daz in search of a pint of deep chocolate with peanut butter. When she couldn't find it, the 30-year-old Studio City resident ended up buying chocolate ice cream and a jar of peanut butter and mixing it up herself. "It wasn't the same," she says, "but I was desperate."

Holdridge just can't get enough peanut butter. She layers it on slices of green apples, dips bananas into it, slathers it on rice cakes and mixes it with sesame oil, chile, green onions and garlic to make a sauce for pasta.

"I wasn't much of a peanut butter lover until I turned 16 and went to boarding school," she says. "All of a sudden something clicked and I developed this incredible obsession."

She's not the only one. About 40 million Americans eat peanut butter on any given day. That's about 800 million pounds of peanut butter a year--enough peanut butter to cover the floor of the Grand Canyon.

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Who would go to the trouble to figure out such a statistic? The Adult Peanut Butter Lovers Fan Club, of course. In seven years, the club for fans of the goober spread has grown to 60,000 members.

"When we started the club," says director Mitch Head, "peanut butter was the Rodney Dangerfield of food. It got no respect among foodies."

But America's sticky secret is that there's a jar of peanut butter in 85% of the homes in the U.S. Famous honorary peanut butter fan club members include President Clinton, Jack Nicholson, Tom Selleck, Shirley MacLaine, Dan Rather, Madonna and gold medal speed skater Bonnie Blair.

"(Bonnie Blair) eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before each race," says Head. "She uses Skippy Super Chunk."

According to the fan club newsletter "Spread The News!" the best-selling brand of peanut butter is Jif, followed by Skippy and then Peter Pan. Yet there is little difference between products. FDA standards say peanut butter must be 90% peanuts and can't have artificial sweeteners or color. "It's the type of sweetener used that makes the difference," explains Head. "Jiffy uses molasses, Skippy uses a corn sweetener and Peter Pan uses sugar."

Someday, according to Holdridge, there will be a shop that sells only things made with peanut butter. Peanut butter cookies, peanut butter bars, peanut butter pie, peanut butter sandwiches . . .

"Everything peanut butter for peanut butter lovers," she says. "It could be called Peanut Butter Love Shop."

\o7 To join the Adult Peanut Butter Lovers Fan Club, send $3 with your name and address to: P.O. Box 7528, Tifton, Ga. 31793. Members receive a membership card, recipe booklet and a subscription to the quarterly fan club newsletter.

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