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Cookbook Watch: 'Creamy and Crunchy' by Jon Krampner

December 22, 2012|By Russ Parsons
  • "Creamy and Crunchy" by Jon Krampner.
"Creamy and Crunchy" by Jon Krampner.

One definition of geekdom is being fascinated by things that other people don’t give a second thought to. To my mind that’s a great virtue, not a shortcoming. And a new book by local author Jon Krampner is nothing but virtuous. “Creamy and Crunchy” is an in-depth look at peanut butter.

How could you possibly find enough to write about peanut butter, you might well ask. It turns out, the only surprising thing is that no one has done it before (well, food historian Andrew Smith did do a book on peanuts, and is amply credited).

First of all, it’s an international ingredient, enjoyed from Canada to Peru, from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Though it’s regarded today in the United States only as a lunchbox or ballpark staple, at one time it was actually a social signifier of the upper class, served at turn-of-the-century health sanitariums run by reformers such as John Harvey Kellogg.

Commercially, there are three major brands -- Peter Pan, Jiff and Skippy -- and each has had its own set of dramas. There have been agricultural and technological advances (as any consumer of Trader Joe’s non-hydrogenated oils will know), scandals, marketing ploys, health scares and now a new wave of peanut butter reformers, such as Arrowhead Mills, with their organic peanut butter.

Reading “Creamy and Crunchy” won’t make peanut butter any more delicious (how could it be?), but it will make you spare at least a passing thought for what a marvel the product really is. And for a geek, there’s no higher praise.

“Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food” by Jon Krampner, Columbia University Press, $27.95.

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