Monday, November 17, 2014

Peanut Butter After All This Time

There are lessons to be learned from peanut butter. Yeah, the stuff you spread on the bread before or after the jelly or jam. Crunchy or smooth, Jif or Skippy. My father can imagine no more decadent dessert than a jar of Jif and a spoon. When I was a kid we used to get a huge tub of super cheap peanut butter and, when it was gone, use the container as a sand toy at the beach. Peanut butter. That’s the stuff I’m learning from.

A few years back I switched from industrial to natural peanut butter with these ingredients: peanuts. I am into eating real food. Popular brands have ingredients that make no sense and are anything but food. They are also loaded with sugar and salt.

Switching to peanut butter, I had to adjust to the oil. I kept the jar upside down until I was ready to open so the oil would distribute. I got used to the taste of peanuts without sugar and salt. I liked it and I felt better for the changes.

One thing bothered me. If it was just peanuts, why I buy it instead of making it?

The cookies I make taste better than store-bought. My ciabatta bread is to die for. I cook most of my food because it costs less, tastes better, and feels good to create. So why not make my own peanut butter?

No good reason.

I first considered making peanut butter three years ago but it wasn’t until yesterday that I did it. Why? Inertia played a part. I had come to rest on the idea of buying my peanut butter and there I sat. Fear was in there too. What if I screwed it up? What would people say? That there aren’t any large crowds watching me cook and judging me was immaterial. The judges all live within the narrow confines of my skull and memory. Worry about time was in there too even though Thoreau warns of the time it takes to make the money I spent on peanut butter and how much it costs me to outsource my labor. There were so many reasons and justifications until yesterday.

At the store, having only a quarter jar of peanut butter in the cupboard at home, I bought roasted peanuts. Later, I made peanut butter. Here’s the recipe:

Pour peanuts into food processor. Turn on and let it run. The peanuts chop fine then turn into a ball, flatten out, and soon the oil comes out of the nuts and makes peanut butter. To complicate matters, at the end I dumped in another cup of nuts and pulsed to make it crunchy.

That’s it. Couldn’t be much more simple. It turned out two and a half jars of peanut butter that tastes great and doesn’t separate. (Separation is a result of sitting on a shelf for months.)

Inertia, fear, and worry keep me from doing things. I’m more capable than I think I am and things are easier than they seem. Just the attempt is often enough. Will I do a better peanut butter next time? Probably. Was this one a failure? Not even a little. The only failure is that it took three years to do this, and here’s the good news: that failure is now behind me.