I’ve loved peanut butter all my life. As a child I read a biography of George Washington Carver, who ran numerous experiments trying to find novel uses for the humble peanut. I was so motivated by his life’s work that I decided I wanted to be a biochemist “when I grew up.” That idea tied in with my general reverence and fascination with science as a child, driven by the books I read and watching Star Trek.
My mother developed type II diabetes in about 1970, when I was about 8 years old. To her credit she decided to change her diet, and thus our family’s diet, for the better. The peanut butter brands she purchased were either Sunny Jim or Adams. Neither of those had added sugar or hydrogenated vegetable oil. To this day I’m more or less repulsed by peanut butter that has added sugar or fat. I recall walking home from both grade school and high school for lunch and eating peanut butter smeared on my mother’s home made whole wheat bread chased by whole milk. Delicious!
Our family had a copy of Frances Moore Lappé’s book Diet for a Small Planet. Her book promoted the now-discounted notion of “complimentary proteins.” If I recall correctly, peanuts and wheat were considered a complete source of all necessary amino acids. A quick Google search suggests this idea is still being promoted:
“Complementary to peanuts, whole grains contain high levels of L-methionine, but lack L-lysine. Grain products and other foods can be eaten with peanuts and peanut products to give your body a complete source of protein. Combine peanuts with whole grain bread, pasta, rice, wheat, corn, almonds or sesame seeds.”
The older I got the more I noticed that peanut butter was subtly associated with childhood. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich was something that children ate, not “grown ups.” But I never lost my reverence for peanut butter. As a young adult living in Seattle, I was energized to learn that Thai cuisine commonly incorporated the humble peanut into peanut sauces. Sadly, this discovery led to me going too far down the peanut butter rabbit hole…
The great problem with peanut butter is its caloric density, because of its high fat content. It’s all too easy to ingest an appalling number of calories in just a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. I would buy peanut butter from Costco in huge containers. I think this packaging subtly reinforces the idea that it’s OK to consume it in commensurately large amounts. In about 2000 I discovered a remarkably hedonistic taste combination. Being that Seattle is chock full of Asian markets, imported dried ramen noodles are commonly available. I would buy them by the case. I found brands which I considered to be MUCH more tasty than Top Ramen, that reviled staple of poor college students. Asian markets would sell very large melamine bowls, designed for pho. I would crush up two packets of dried noodles, add a large chunk of Lloyd’s shredded barbecue chicken, replete with sugar and fat, and top it all off with a large dollop of Adams peanut butter. I’d add water and microwave it. I would eat this in reaction to the slightest impulse of boredom or hunger. Not surprisingly I began to gain weight, and within several years weighed between 250 and 260 pounds.
By 2008, I had regained good exercise and impulse control habits. I’ve largely retained those good behaviors and have bettered them in some ways. For a time, I decided that peanut butter was simply too tempting to keep in my refrigerator! It was all or nothing thinking.
We all backslide about things from time to time. I’ve taken peanut butter back into my life, and have even discovered the intoxicating combination of straight peanut butter with a tad bit of chili-garlic paste. An objective observer would probably see this consumption as abusive, sort of like eating cake frosting right out of the jar…
I lift weights for exercise, and so listen to the advice of various bodybuilders on the subject of exercise and nutrition. I came across a video made by a bodybuilder named Arash Rahbar in which he mentioned a product called PB2.
I was curious. They sold it at Costco, so I decided to try it. It’s simply peanut powder in which a large part of the oil has been extracted. My guess is that it’s really an industrial byproduct of peanut oil manufacturing, now being sold as food for humans.
The beauty of this product is that it retains the taste of peanut butter, yet is MUCH lower in calories. It’s simply mixed with water to create a paste. I add a bit of chocolate protein powder to create a wonderful chocolate / peanut combination as a paste. Sort of like eating straight cake frosting without the guilt! The Costco I frequent is currently selling another brand, called PB Fit. I find it indistinguishable from PB2 as far as taste and consistency goes.
Recently I discovered by chance another tasty combination. I cooked some dried hominy in my pressure cooker for lunch, but happened to add a bit too much water. Peanut powder is claimed to be able to thicken watery dishes, but I don’t find it as effective as corn flour in this regard. Nevertheless, I added some peanut powder to the hominy, which had been seasoned with soy sauce. It did thicken the resulting product a bit, but more importantly I discovered that peanut powder plus soy sauce is a very tasty combination!
If you supplement your diet with protein powder, I HIGHLY recommend you try adding a bit of peanut powder to any chocolate flavored supplement beverage. It’s a superb combination, and doesn’t add that many calories.
I suspect there are a number of other tasty and novel uses for this new product. Good luck in discovering them!