Thursday, December 4, 2014

Peanut Butter

"Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter." ~ James A. Garfield

(Apparently, peanut butter, like a bullet, will stick to the roof of your pancreas, too.

Here's an interesting historical oddity: Present at the assassination/shooting of President Garfield was Robert Todd Lincoln, the oldest son of Abraham Lincoln. Additionally, Robert Todd Lincoln was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in September 1901 ~ at the invitation of President McKinley, no less ~ when President William McKinley was also assassinated/shot; although, Robert Todd Lincoln was not directly present in the Temple of Music concert hall. 

However, there is absolutely no truth to the fact that Robert Todd Lincoln was anywhere near the grassy knoll in Dallas, Texas in November 1963.

Unfortunately, I do not know what either Abraham Lincoln's, William McKinley's, or John F. Kennedy's opinions about peanut butter were. Sadly, this is just one more aspect of culinary history that may forever remain a mystery.)

(Really?! Could there be any other EweToobular juxtaselection for this theme? You know you are doing the Snoopy "Happy Dance" in your chair right now!)

Peanuts, Groundnuts, Monkeynuts

First off, peanuts are actually a legume and not a botanical "nut", and were originally indigenous (as opposed to unoriginally introduced) to the New World (see 'blog-entries from December 14th, 2012 and March 13th, 2014).

The oldest specimens of peanuts found in Peru have been dated to about 7,600 years ago by archeologists (I think that I have a jar of Skippy® in my cupboard that is almost as old, too). So, this just means that South America and Mesoamerica were enjoying this little legume for over seven thousand years before that upstart Cristoforo Colombo even set foot on the Plimoth Rock. Peanuts were originally domesticated in Paraguay or Bolivia in pre-Colombian times, but cultivation of the plant spread ("spread" ~ "peanut butter", get it?) to Mesoamerica and Mexico where the Spanish conquistadors (locally known as "those invading bastages" in the Nahuatl language) found peanuts being offered for sale in the marketplaces. Peanut butter can be traced back to the Aztecs, who ground roasted groundnuts into a paste. 

For some reason, peanut butter was known as "monkey butter" in WWII slang, but everyone knows that those GI's were just a buncha goobers[1], anyway. However, the Dutch (you know, those people that live in either Holland or the Netherlands[2], but speak neither Hollandese, nor Netherlandese) call peanut butter "pindakaas"[3] (which means "peanut cheese" and is pronounced somewhat like "pinda-CASS" ~ "Pinda cass on da donkey", anyone?).

The Great Chunky vs. Smooth Debate 

Do you prefer chunky/crunchy over smooth/creamy peanut butter? I actually like both. I suppose it all depends on what you are making with the peanut butter. Chunky/crunchy makes for a really nicely textured PB&J sandwich, but the smooth/creamy would be much better if you were preparing some kinda peanut sauce with an Asian-inspired meal. (Okay, so maybe it isn't really that much of a debate after all.) But then, there is always the age-old question of: Skippy® vs. Jif®? (Which I heard was the real reason why Chuckie "Odie" Guiteau shot President Garfield.)

And just to tie this 'blog-entry in with any kind of breakfastary theme, peanut butter goes just as well on toast as it does on bagels in the morning. I like it best on a Pumpernickel bagel (but stay away from any Garlic or Onion bagels with peanut butter, unless you want to make it a Thai-style breakfast).

Lastly, for any of you that celebrate it, January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day in the U.S. of America.

1. Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, number one:

This word was not named after Gomer Pyle's slightly less intelligent cousin. The word "goober (or goober pea)", that is sometimes used in the southern states of 'merica, comes from the Kimbundu* word "nguba", meaning "peanut".

*(Kimbundu is a Bantu language of Northern Angola. I am pretty sure it is not a new Linux-based operating system from Canonical Ltd.)

2. In Dutch, the name of this country is actually "Nederland" (pronounced something like "Nayderlandt"). Strangely enough, they still would pronounce the word "Holland" pretty much like it looks, though.

And, no, contrary to popular belief, the Netherlands was not the place where Peter Pan and his band of Lost Boys robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. However, in keeping with the whole peanut buttery theme, there is a brand of peanut butter put out by ConAgra Foods that is named after the J.M. Barrie character.

3. Apparently, in the Netherlands, the word "butter" is only supposed to be used with products that contain actual butter. I suppose that they don't want to confuse people with products made of peanuts with any other dairy products.

Which brings us to… stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer of the day, number two:

Just for the heckovit, here is/are Peanut Butter in a few other languages:

Arabic ~ زبدة الفول السوداني (pronounced something like "zoobda del fool something or other"; as best as I can figure, the word for "peanut" in Arabic is derived from the same word for "bean", which is "fool")
French ~ le beurre d'arachide (and that just translates as "the butter of the peanut"; please note, as strange as French cuisine may sometimes be, they do not make their peanut butter from "spiders", though)
German/Deutsch ~ Erdnussbutter (This compound word comes from three words and literally translates as "ground nut butter". See, Dutchy? The Germans have no qualms about calling this a "butter" product. I will let you figure out a decent pronunciation of this word, though.)
Greek ~ φυστικοβούτυρο (it also literally translates as "peanut butter", and it is pronounced just like it looks)
Hungarian ~ mogyoróvajat (pronounced somewhat as "moyoROvayat"; again, this compound word simply means "peanut", "mogyoró", and "butter", "vaj")
Italiano ~ burro di arachidi (and, no, the Italians don't have a Mad Scientist crossbreed of a "Donkey-spider")
Russkij ~ арахисовое масло
(transliterated/pronounced somewhat as "arakhisovoe maslo"; again, no actual spiders were injured during the making of this peanut butter)
Spanish ~ manteca de cacahuete ("butter of the peanut", once again) 

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