Ten best uses for peanut butter
The old standby
November is Peanut Butter Lovers Month. Seriously. And what better way to commemorate this most American of foods by giving it a Ten Best tribute. Peanut butter, we’ve found, is a truly remarkable substance with dozens of practical applications. But it should be introduced in its most basic incarnation: spread generously between two slices of soft white bread and paired with a tall, cold glass of milk. And maybe some Fritos.
When peanut butter first encountered its soulmate it must have been a moment for the ages. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is believed to have originated some time during World War II – it was first referenced in print in 1940 and the two main ingredients were a part of a US soldier’s K-rations during that conflict. At any rate, the case with peanut butter and jelly is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts: the sticky, salty goo mingling with the sweet, fruity jelly in such a way as to render the mixture timeless. A tip: fry your PBJ in a skillet like a grilled cheese. Trust us.
Okay, so this sandwich is kind of an exotic cousin to the PBJ, but it merits its own entry simply because it was my favorite sandwich until I was 13 years old. It consists of peanut butter in collaboration with a spreadable marshmallow crÃ¨me that used to make me dance with glee when I would find it in my brown bag. Add a layer of Nutella, an Italian concoction made from hazelnuts and chocolate, and you’ve really got something.
Likewise, Elvis Presley gets his own entry on the list for his contribution to the practical applications of peanut butter. Elvis was a blue-collar gourmand whose tastes ran towards meatloaf, barbecue and buttermilk. But when he got a hankering for something quick and easy, he went for his go-to sandwich. “The Elvis,” as it’s known, is a fried peanut butter sandwich with fresh banana inside and sometimes includes honey or slices of bacon.
Soup from nuts
Most people believe that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter at the Tuskegee Institute. But another version of the tale has Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the corn flakes guy, coming up with the product in 1895 at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Mich. But we like to think it was Carver who came up with peanut butter soup, a Southern staple for generations, especially in certain parts of Virginia. For those who haven’t tried it: It tastes much better than it sounds.
If the TV commercials of my youth taught me anything, it’s that the union of peanut butter and chocolate was an accidental discovery, much like Krazy Glue or penicillin. And, if I remember correctly, it happened in a movie theater balcony. But once the sweet-tooth satiating power of peanut butter was discovered it wasn’t long before it became the main ingredient in things like fudge, bon bons, nougat and the Hershey’s 5th Avenue bar, a sophisticated version of the Butterfinger.
Thai one on
Food nerds will tell you that when a Thai peanut sauce is made with peanut butter as opposed to actual peanuts that it is not a Thai sauce at all but actually a bastardized American version of the form, to which we say, “What’s the damn difference, Poindexter?” What matters is that when the flavor of peanuts is combined in a meaningful way with spicy peppers and coconut milk it is a wonder to behold.
Peanut butter bait
Peanut butter may be a human invention, but the wild critters like it, too. Did you know that you can make a bird feeder by spreading peanut butter on a pinecone and then rolling it in birdseed? Or that, contrary to the collective wisdom of a thousand “Tom & Jerry” cartoons, peanut butter works much more effectively in a mousetrap than cheese? It is also good for catching gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons and voles. What the hell is a vole?
Aficionados of the CBS reality show “Big Brother” might remember that in the third season, in a gratuitous attempt to trade sexuality for survival, three of the female roommates fashioned bikinis from household objects for a backyard pageant. The bottoms of these swimsuits, horny fans will recall, were made from peanut butter. Not exactly the final episode of “MASH,” but a memorable TV moment nonetheless.
Peanut butter is delicious, to be sure, but it is known for its MacGyver-like qualities as well. Peanut butter can take rubber cement off of wood. It can be used to remove bubblegum from hair (or, we guess, hair from bubblegum). You can thin it with water and use it in place of cream. Barry Goldwater famously endorsed its properties as a shaving cream. And according to a number of internet psychos, it is possible to make diamonds using peanut butter, charcoal, lighter fluid and a microwave.