Spreading  the Word

Spreading the Word

Author explores history, appeal of peanut butter in “Creamy & Crunchy” at Vromans Tuesday

By Sara Cardine 01/10/2013

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Whether you prefer creamy or crunchy, Skippy or Jif, your peanut butter palate will be further refined on Tuesday night when author Jon Krampner comes to Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. 
 
In his new book, “Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food,” Krampner denudes the humble nut and the vast and ranging historical incarnations, most notably butter. 
 
“I’m basically a biographer,” he explains. “This is a biography of a product instead of a person.”
 
On Monday at 7 p.m., Krampner will enlighten audiences on peanut butter’s meteoric rise from a prescription to a US staple, reading selections from “Creamy & Crunchy” and signing copies afterward. 
 
The new book is Krampner’s first official foray into food writing at length. His first two books — “The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television” and “Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley”— chronicled the lives of two people whose promising Hollywood careers were derailed by alcoholism. Likewise, “Creamy & Crunchy” is a biography of peanut butter, from its discovery as a protein mash to its modern day treat status and its corporatization (Jif and Laura Scutter’s peanut butters belong to jelly mogul Smuckers, and Hormel recently acquired Skippy for a hefty $700 million.) 
 
In researching the book, Krampner stumbled across a San Fernando man named Herb Dow, who’d once had a brand of peanut butter named after him and who introduced him to retired Florida peanut farmer Stanley Pittman. Through Pittman, Krampner journeyed into peanut country, learning more about the nut’s heritage and cultivation as he went.
 
Most school-book narratives trace peanut butter’s origins to American botanist/scientist and inventor George Washington Carver, who came up with more than 300 different uses for the common peanut during his tenure as professor at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute — from hand lotion to meat substitutes — but Krampner believes otherwise. 
 
“William F. Buckley, well-known leader of the conservative party, said George Washington Carver invented peanut butter,” says Krampner. “He did not.”
 
Instead, the author traces peanut butter’s true origins to the American Midwest in the 1890s. That’s when Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created a protein-rich peanut mash to nourish toothless patients. Kellogg, the name behind one of the nation’s biggest cereal producers, sought his first patent for a “food compound” in 1895. He sought other patents related to its processing in subsequent years.
 
Despite that provable heritage, in the introduction of “Creamy & Crunchy,” Krampner credits other cultures throughout history for creating precursors, from a sticky peanut paste made by South American tribes nearly 3,000 years ago to a roasted peanut mash enjoyed by West African cultures for the past 500 years to peanut porridge slurped up by Confederate soldiers in the 1860s.
The author follows that thread through the 20th century, through the proliferation of big name brands like Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy and smaller outfits such as Laura Scutter’s and the Canadian-based Squirrel brand. Krampner considers at length the dietary differences between popular oils used to stabilize peanut butters to prevent separation and natural peanut oil, and explains a recent resurgence in organic and natural, old-fashioned styles. 
 
Scattered throughout “Creamy & Crunchy” are delectable recipes, from frozen peanut butter brandy Alexanders to peanut butter meatballs to a pie recipe contributed by former President Jimmy Carter to “The Great American Peanut Butter Book” that lets you put your own peanut butter preferences to the test. 

Jon Krampner discusses and signs his book, “Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Visit his Web site, creamyandcrunchy.com to take a “PB Quiz” or for event info.

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Hey PPBL's: (Pasadena Peanut Butter Lovers): CORRECTION: This event takes place T U E S D A Y (not Monday as stated above), JANUARY 15, 7 pm at Vroman's -- 695 E. Colorado Blvd. See you there on Tuesday. http://www.creamyandcrunchy.com/events.h...

posted by eisnerpr on 1/11/13 @ 01:33 p.m.
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