Musings on Peanut Butter

Over the long weekend P, myself, R and S went on one of our road trips—this time to northern Maine, the farthest you can go north on the Eastern coast before you hit Canada. It was in this tiny hamlet that P and S, fresh from a landlocked mountainous country, started their American life at a rural state school near the ocean.

We connected with a few friends from their days “down east”—a professor, a classmate or two, and some local townsfolk friends. During our conversations, one story kept popping up, and of all things, it was about peanut butter. Mental note—blog about that.

So here I am, my post on peanut butter.

The first conversation started when our hosts asked what I wanted to pack for lunch since we were going to the Salmon Festival, and being a vegetarian, I wasn’t so interested in eating the local attraction of salmon-on-a-stick.

“Just give her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” S said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “She loooooves peanut butter and jelly.”

This snarky comment comes from the cross-country road trip the four of us went on in 2008. I was trying to think of easy foods to pack in case we were out on the road and hunger struck. What would any true-blooded American think of in such situations? Why the classic PB&J, of course!

Perhaps my companions didn’t notice when I stuck the large jar of peanut butter in our shopping cart in California, but on day two, when I pulled it out of the trunk during a rest stop at the Grand Canyon and proposed a quick sandwich for lunch, I was met with three disappointed stares.

“Come on guys, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are quick, easy, and filling. What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Nepalese hate peanut butter!”

How can anyone hate peanut butter? I admit I’m not as crazy as some Americans, who could literally lick it off a spoon, but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich definitely hits the spot now and again.

“Give it a try, its good, and it will hold you over until dinner.”

Well—I was the only one eating PBJ’s the rest of the trip.

The next time over the weekend that I told the story we were having lunch with an older American couple. They were equally surprised (especially since they have a Thai daughter-in-law, who uses peanuts in all sorts of cooking).

“But you like peanuts?” asked the woman.

“Yeah” agreed R, S and P.

“So what is the difference? Peanut butter is basically crushed spreadable peanuts.”

Still no takers.

“But get this…” I added, “A few nights ago when it was too hot to cook in our apartment a group of us decided to make summer rolls including a Thai peanut sauce made from peanut butter, vinegar and sugar. P loved the sauce.”

“I didn’t know there was peanut butter in it at the time!” He defended himself.

“But you still liked it.” declared the friend.

“It was mixed with other things.” He said, and S concluded: “You’ll never get a Nepali to like peanut butter.”

Sigh. I know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a pretty American thing. As a student living in the International  House, I proposed making PPJs for “American culture night” since they really resonate with me as a part of Americana childhood.

However, I don’t want to stereotype all Nepalis, because I hold out that there must be Nepali peanut butter lovers in the world, but I do offer a word of caution—don’t make PPJ’s for a road trip with Nepali friends and expect to be popular.

14 responses to “Musings on Peanut Butter

  1. I remember once in International summer lunch in the Clark Lab, somebody brought peanut butter jelly sandwitch with some banana and other fruits. I remember I was like is this exotic American lunch???? I should mention that in this lunch, one or two people make lunch for all the people in the lab. People like to make something special of their country… I guess from C, your blog, it is an important lunch item in America….. :)

  2. Yeah, I don’t know what it is about peanut butter. My desi in-laws and hubby don’t really like it either, but they will eat peanuts as well. Maybe it’s a texture thing or just the idea of it. Like you say, your hubby ate it disguised as a thai peanut sauce, lol. C’est la vie, more for us : )

  3. I am Nepalese and do like peanut butter =). Not crunchy though, smooth.

  4. I like peanut butter on my toast, PB&J, Thai curries and all of that. What I don’t like is peanut butter in chocolates. I really don’t understand how people love Reese so much.

    • I’m a fan of Reeses, although I am more a fan of caramel and chocolate than peanut butter and chocolate. Glad to hear you like peanut butter too :)

      • Hey, Colleen! Told you I’d read this sometime! :-) Anyway, I love Reese’s, too! If you’re without, try swishing Hershey’s chocolate around in a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter. Yummy!

  5. And yes I forgot to mention, growing up in Kathmandu, we used to get Amul’s peanut butter once in a while (since it was more expensive than the regular Nepal dairy butter), and both I and my brother simply loved them.

  6. After eating food all over South Asia, I understand your dilemma at trying to introduce American cuisine…cheese sandwiches? Burgers? Macaroni and cheese? Oh boy…it doesn’t quite stack up to curries and spicy kabobs. The only thing I like to brag about is our variety of good breads, which are very rare there, at least in Bangladesh.

  7. I am a Nepali living in US. I indulge in PBJ at least once a week for my breakfast and enjoy every bite of it. I started buying organic peanut butter at some farmer’s market … they grind it right in front of your eyes and hence no added ingredients … hurray!!!

  8. I wrote about peanut butter once too – and root beer! M hated both when I first met him, but here it is, 8 years down the line, and he’s a convert. Quite enthusiastically a convert for root beer, in fact, less enthusiastic about peanut butter, but he still does like it. I guess like me and cilantro! How long have you been trying, maybe success is just around the corner?

  9. I don’t think “Nepalese hate peanut butter”, they hate the idea of peanut butter sandwich because it represents a cold food with very little effort. Next time use crunchy peanut (almond) butter, and orange marmalade on white bread. Cut off edges to diamond shape and serve it as burfi. The haters will gobble it down.

  10. Great idea! I’ll try that sometime! :) Thanks

  11. Trader Joe’s makes a peanut butter spread that is flavored like Thai peanut sauce – perhaps that could be a compromise? It’s really great with honey for a sandwich.

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