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Published:July 18th, 2008 09:43 EST
American Junk Food: Peanut Butter

American Junk Food: Peanut Butter

By Daniel Mabee

This upcoming September, I will be entering my Super Senior (fifth, but who`s counting?) year at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. When I was a Freshman, I nearly starved - without ma and pa there to cook every night, I was utterly lost. That was, of course, before I discovered peanut butter.

You see, peanut butter is one of the four real(istic) college food groups - sharing the spotlight with ramen, ketchup, and the mythical home cooked meal, it`s our primary source of protein. The delicious spread is perfect on crackers, bread, slathered on the rare piece of fruit - on dark, lonely nights, I have even been known to toss it in the freezer and eat it like ice cream... but I digress...

Needless to say, my life would be a little different without peanut butter. Originally, however, it wasn`t created to ease the collegiate munchies - as is often the case, necessity was the mother of its invention.

The earliest peanut butters were gritty, oily concoctions developed with medical applications in mind. In 1890, Dr. John Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame invented "nut butter," a source of protein for those who wouldn`t, or couldn`t, eat meat. And so, the snack`s father was vegetarianism; its mother, bad teeth. Who would have guessed the offspring would be so delicious?

At first, however, it wasn`t. As seems to be the rule for anything made with your health in mind, the earliest peanut butter was bland and bitter. Just like many other confections, PB first became a household name as a result of a world exposition - this time, the 1904 Universal Exposition in Saint Louis. As it turned out, the trick to turning it from medicine to snack was simply roasting, rather than boiling, the peanuts.

Peanut butter continued to evolve as the years passed, each incarnation being slightly sweeter, creamier, and fluffier. In 1922, a man by the name of Joseph Rosefield created a version that could last over a year on store shelves, and the modern era began for the treat. Many of today`s major PB producers, such as Peter Pan, were born out of this process.

Today, over half of the world`s peanuts are used in the creation of peanut butter. It`s no surprise, really, considering it`s a solid quarter of the known college foods groups. After all, if there`s something in your kitchen, odds are, it would be better with a peanut buttery slant.

Try it. I dare you.