The peanut butter industry has been thriving for decades. With a wide variety of brands, tastes, and textures, it is one of the most versatile foods on the market.Due to a large assortment of culinary applications, peanut butter can be found almost anywhere. Some people would rather stick to the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while others use the ingredient in everything they can, including ice creams, cookies, salads, soups, burgers, and even drinks.Beloved by children and adults alike, peanut butter has stolen the hearts and stomachs of many cultures—especially in the US, which has been the main source of its popularity.
Two National Days
It seems like everything has a national day. There are over 1,500 national days, many of which celebrate a specific kind of food.The National Peanut Butter Day is celebrated annually on January 24. But the lovers of peanut butter took it a step further and created another day of their own. March 1 of each year is known as the National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Although celebrating the people who eat peanut butter may seem ridiculous, it does have a few noteworthy lovers including Elvis Presley, Jerry Seinfeld, and Madonna.
Peanut Butter History
Peanuts are legumes, more closely related to peas and beans rather than nuts. Originating in South Africa, peanuts were introduced to Asia and Africa through Spanish explorers who had brought them back to Europe. In the early 1700s, peanuts were finally introduced to North America by Africans.There is evidence suggesting that South American Incas were the first to make peanut butter by grinding the legumes. However, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg might have been the first inventor of the peanut butter we know and love today.Kellogg started making peanut paste in the 1890s. His goal was to turn his patients into vegetarians by replacing meat with the high protein found in peanuts.He and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, even patented a peanut butter process. The patent was granted in 1895 and described the food as “a pasty adhesive substance that is for convenience of distinction termed nut butter.” But the Kellogg brothers were more focused on their cereal brand instead.Another American credited with the invention is a St. Louis physician who ground peanuts into a paste with his meat grinder around the same time. He came up with the idea while searching for a protein solution for patients with bad teeth who could not chew meat.An owner of a food product company began producing the paste thanks to the physician’s suggestion. Peanut butter was officially introduced for the first time at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. It was packaged and sold in barrels for roughly 6 cents per pound.
The Peanut Butter Case
The rise of peanut butter’s popularity in the 1950s led to many poor-quality products. To cut costs, companies used hydrogenated oils instead of the more expensive peanut oil. And glycerin became a common sweetener.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that some products labeled as “peanut butter” only contained 75 percent peanuts. They proposed a 95 percent peanut standard in 1959, which the manufacturers fought against by stating that customers preferred the sweeter and more spreadable product.Disagreements over consistency turned into the famous 12-year “Peanut Butter Case.” After a lot of haggling, manufacturers convinced the FDA to lower their standard to 90 percent. Although companies tried to counter with 87 percent, the FDA refused to budge.The “Peanut Butter Hearings” began in 1965 after two postponements. Well-paid lawyers of major peanut butter manufacturers went up against the underfunded and understaffed FDA.The battle over a 3 percent difference in peanut content took 20 weeks and more than 8,000 transcript pages. With the help of Ruth Desmond, a fierce consumer activist, the case swayed in the FDA’s favor.However, it took five more years until the US Appeals Court finally affirmed the 90 percent standard that is used to this day. The United States Department of Agriculture released their official standards for grades of peanut butter in 1972. Today, an average peanut butter jar contains roughly 540 peanuts.
Peanut Butter Diamond
Dan Frost, a scientist at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany, tries to mimic the conditions of the Earth’s lower mantle. This involves crushing rocks at some of the highest pressures known to mankind and occasional minor explosions. He said, “If we want to understand how the Earth was formed, then one of the things you need to know is what the planet is made out of. He had a hypothesis that rocks pulled carbon dioxide from the oceans a long time ago. High pressures forced the CO2 to leave the rocks when they were drawn into the mantle. The freed CO2 was stripped of oxygen by iron and left the naked carbon, which turned into diamond under high heat and pressure.Frost’s suspicions were confirmed when he turned carbon-rich peanut butter into a diamond by recreating the process with his presses. However, the diamond was destroyed by a release of hydrogen that was bound to the peanut butter’s carbon.One press squeezes tiny crystal samples at up to 280,000 times atmospheric pressure while they are cooked by a furnace. This rearranges atoms into denser structures. The second press crushes the new minerals and slowly squeezes them with two tiny real diamonds. The results are 1.3 million times that of atmospheric pressure.Sadly, this discovery is unlikely to make a fortune. Frost said that it would take weeks for a 2-millimeter (0.08 in) diamond to form and real diamonds have to be used in the process. He is more interested in discovering the other secrets of Earth’s history.