Book Reviews

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All American Food

 

by Jon Krampner
Columbia University Press, 2014
320 pages
ISBN: 978-0231162333

Review by Rosanna Keyes

For many Americans peanut butter holds a special place in our hearts. Often considered an “all American food” it rivals hot dogs and hamburgers. An integral food of childhood, it also carries a certain nostalgic sentimentality that arises when we smell it, taste it, even think about it. Memories arise, and we slip back in time, sifting through the years that have brought us to the here and now. We may find ourselves, while standing in the aisle at the grocery store, waxing poetic to strangers about our first peanut butter sandwich, and perhaps discussing the pros and cons of various brands. Other foods no doubt have this powerful effect as well, but there is a certain universality about peanut butter that stands out.

Although ‘nut’ is in their name, peanuts are actually legumes, “more closely related botanically to peas, beans, clover and alfalfa, as Jon Kramper explains in his Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All American Food, “than to walnuts and almonds which have hard shells and grow on trees.” Peanuts are also very nutritious, being high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and since they are legumes they add valuable nitrogen back into the soil. Peanuts are also one of the only plants to flower above ground, but fruit below ground. And, though they are now a fiercely American food, they are not native, hailing, in fact, from South America.

In the US, Virginias and Runners are the two most commonly grown varieties, followed by Spanish and Valencia. Most commercial peanut butter brands now use runners as they “are less expensive, easier to grow and harvest, and produce higher yields,” although Krampner goes on to explain that runners are the least flavorful of all varieties. Many Americans tasted peanut butter for the first time at the St. Louis Worlds Fair in 1904, but it was after WWII that consumption of peanut butter took off. It is around this time that three major brands emerged on the market: Jiff, Skippy and Peter Pan, all of which vied for the consumers loyalty.

As with many mass produced foods, cases of Salmonella contamination began to crop up, the first documented one occurring at a Peter Pan plant in the 1970’s. Despite these and other health concerns related to peanut butter (specifically the use of hydrogenated oils to stabilize peanut butters) consumption continues to grow exponentially. And, for those of you who need more proof of America’s obsession with peanut butter, or who may just need an interesting tidbit to share at your next cocktail party, the worlds largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich was made on November 13, 2010 at the Great American Peanut Butter Festival in Grand Saline Texas. It weighed 1, 342 pounds and contained 292 pounds of peanut butter, 340 pounds of grape jelly and 710 pounds of bread.

Jon Krampner has done an admirable job breaking down the history of peanut butter, presenting its ups and downs, and tracing its prominent role over the years as a food staple in American society.