For the Love of Peanut Butter

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I love food. I love nearly everything about it. I study food. I read about growing and producing food. I’ve even started to grow it myself. I support local farmers and producers by visiting farmers’ markets, food coops and using a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture service). I eat out regularly, both while I’m at home and when I travel, always looking for the new and exceptional dining experience. I volunteer several times a month at a homeless kitchen in Washington DC. I subscribe to (and read) several cooking magazines and food blogs, and watch various cooking shows religiously on PBS, The Cooking Channel, The Food Network, Bravo and the Travel Channel. I buy dozens of cookbooks every year. I experiment with different techniques and cuisines. I’ve taken several cooking classes, including a six-month professional cooking course. I’m working on a cookbook of all these experiences, mostly for my friends and family, and of course, I blog about food here at the Muddy Puppy site.

Recently, I’ve been into experimenting in the kitchen with various ethnic cuisines, ranging from Creole/Cajun to Asian to Indian to perfecting my pizza repertoire. This past long weekend (thanks to President’s Day), I banged around in my kitchen and produced several acceptable experiments, including mascarpone and tomato penne, pizza Blanco, vegetarian dumplings, scallion pancakes, and stir-fried tofu and broccoli. It was a lot of work, but it’s all fun to me, so I never mind (and neither do any of my dining guests). However, even for me there comes the time when I don’t feel like cooking and really don’t want to eat anything complicated. On those days, like today, I am grateful for my first (and undying) food love: peanut butter. On those days where I want to avoid the complicated and exotic, I can eat this creamy, tasty, simple food three times a day and never tire of it. I have to admit that I am a Skippy girl – smooth style only. I’ll put up with other brands without complaint if I’m a guest at someone else’s home or traveling, but in my house, there is always a jar of Skippy peanut butter. There has to be. I will not stand for a peanut butter-less house.

This love affair goes back a few years and is based in a secret I will share with my readers here today for the first time: before I learned to love all sorts of foods, I was a picky eater. In fact, for the first eight years of my school life, I had the same thing for lunch each and every day. Yes, you guessed it. It was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The bread was Wonder, the jelly was Welch’s grape, and the peanut butter was Skippy. In the brown bag alongside my beloved sandwich were two homemade cookies (usually chocolate chip) and a piece of fruit (usually an apple or box of raisins). I wanted for nothing more, other than the carton of milk I purchased at school from the lunch lady for three cents (five cents for chocolate milk, but only on Wednesdays when it was available at Holy Family Grade School back in the day).

During my college years, I started to branch out with my food choices a bit, but when I found myself at American University to participate in the Washington Semester on Government in our nation’s capital, the first thing I bought was a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of whole wheat bread (notice the cuisine advancement in my choice of carbohydrate?). While I tried Chinese food for the first time, and experimented with New York style pizza, and learned what a bagel and lox were, I found peanut butter to be my go to staple. It was my connection to my Midwest home while I adjusted to life in my first big city.

So today, as I recover from a weekend of cooking experimentation, I have continued my lifelong reliance on this creamy treat. For breakfast, I delighted in its ability to melt into the crevices of a toasted English muffin, and for lunch, I munched on a folded piece of wheat bread slathered with it and washed down with an ice cold glass of milk (white, not chocolate, since it is only Tuesday). Truth be told, I haven’t thought much about dinner yet today; there’s still some writing to be done, a bathroom to be cleaned, another load of laundry to be started, bills to be paid and my workout to be completed before the sun sets and I need to worry about food again. But, when I do, it’s nice to know that there’s always a jar of peanut butter around, just in case.