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A Brief History of Peanut Butter

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/brief-history-peanut-butter-180976525/

smithsonianmag.com

A Brief History of Peanut Butter
The bizarre sanitarium staple that became a spreadable obsession

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History of peanut butter

History of peanut butter

The Incas were the first to grind peanuts, but peanut butter reappeared in the modern world when John Harvey Kellogg filed a patent for a proto-peanut butter in 1895.

The food compound involved boiling nuts and grinding them into a paste. Kellogg promoted peanut butter as a healthy alternative to meat, which he saw as a digestive irritant.

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Replacing meat with peanut butter

A 1908 ad claimed that 10 cent's worth of peanuts contained six times the energy of a porterhouse steak.

By World War I, U.S. meat rationing turned consumers to peanuts. Manufacturers sold tubs of peanut butter to local grocers and advised them to stir frequently as the oil would separate and spoil.

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Popularity of peanut butter increases

  • In 1921, a chemical process called partial hydrogenation was applied to the naturally occurring oil in peanut butter. This made the oil solid or semisolid at room temperature, and the nut butter thus remained blended. This process made it possible to ship the spread across the country.
  • By 1920, Rosefield found Skippy, which debuted crunchy peanut butter and wide-mouth jars. In WWII, tins of Skippy were shipped with service members overseas.
  • By 2020, SKippy and Jif released their latest peanut butter innovation of squeezable tubes.

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Helping black farmers prosper

George Washington Carver helped black farmers prosper, free from the tyranny of cotton.

Carver took over the agriculture department at the Tuskegee Institute in 1896 to aid black farmers. Carver began experimenting with plants like peanuts and sweet potatoes, replenishing the nitrogen that cotton plantations stripped from the soil, and helping farmers feed their families.

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Making peanut butter more accessible

Peanut butter was first established as a delicacy. In 1896, Good Housekeeping encouraged women to make their own peanut butter with a meat grinder and suggested spreading it on bread.

Before the end of the century, an employee at Kellogg's sanitarium, Joseph Lambert, invented machinery to roast and grind peanuts on a larger scale.

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