Food waste has always been a real bugbear of mine but like most people, I hold a particular bias. Although no one likes to discover some long forgotten food item in their kitchen that has clearly aged well beyond its use-by-date, I absolutely despair when something that was perfectly edible and especially tasty is needlessly wasted. Therefore, for purely selfish – or perhaps, more accurately – greedy reasons, it really pains me when the discarded foodstuff in question is something that I like to eat. Which is why when I read in the media about the recent arrest of a couple of spies for espionage-related charges I shuddered with horror. Not because they had been trying to sell secrets about nuclear powered US submarines in an eerie Vigil-like copycat. But that the spies had concealed an SD card containing highly classified information with a message wrapped in plastic inside half of a peanut butter sandwich. It was used in a ‘dead-drop’ in an outrageous abuse of peanut butter!
The sandwich was picked up by an undercover FBI agent who verified the top secret contents while the hidden message reportedly included, in part, ‘I hope your experts are very happy with the sample provided and I understand the importance of a small exchange to grow our trust.’ So the question I have is this. Did the undercover agent enjoy the sample of the peanut butter sandwich?? Or did they actually remove its hidden contents and then calmly threw away a perfectly tasty lunch? And incidentally, what happened to the other half of the peanut butter sandwich?! It is almost an unwritten rule observed by all peanut butter consumers worldwide that no one makes half of a peanut butter sandwich. There is absolutely no point so it is just not done. Try it, if you will, and you are guaranteed to end up making another half. Which brings me to the mysterious fate of the spies’ second half…Did the two spies agree to share it 50:50 or did they have to rock-paper-scissors it? I hardly think that they saved it for a rainy day even though it is well-known that a peanut butter sandwich travels extremely well. Are we to believe that they wasted an entire peanut butter sandwich just to sell secrets?! If so, these people are monsters and I urge the authorities to not only throw the book at them but to add crimes against peanut butter to the long list of charges.
I have to say that although this was an extreme case it is not the first time that I have heard about peanut butter being wasted without just cause. According to social media, the oil content of peanut butter makes it a good lubricant which can be substituted for many household essentials if you find that you are in a bind. Supposedly you can just reach for a jar of the nutty spread if you find yourself out of WD-40, shaving cream, hair conditioner or glue remover. It can also allegedly be used to repair any tiny scratches in wood or vinyl discs…I can only assume that these novel suggestions apply exclusively to non-crunchy versions. There are no figures out there to tell us how many people are currently mistreating peanut butter in these clear breaches but even one is too many.
Although the thought of my house being filled with peanutty aroma is appealing I will not be wasting peanut butter on a scratched floorboard or squeaky door anytime soon. Especially because any repairs would immediately be licked off by a lurking cat. Not only that, but peanut butter is also such a nutritious and versatile ingredient to add to your diet that you should really savour every last dollop. But to be clear, when I am referring to ‘peanut butter’ I am not talking about the mislabelled imposter jars that contain added sugar, syrups, sweeteners, palm oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil or vast amounts of salt in addition to the peanuts. Real peanut butter only contains peanuts or at the most, also a small amount of salt. That’s it. You can normally recognise it pretty easily because the peanut oil separates from the rest and you have to stir it before using. But then you get to lick the spoon. Check the label to be sure and rest assured that there is no need to change the recipe for real peanut butter. It has already lasted throughout history.
In fact the earliest evidence of peanut butter is found several hundreds of years ago in South America where the Incas ate the sticky spread (although we do not know if they ever sandwiched it). It wasn’t until 1895 that a patent was filed for peanut butter in the US where it had been created as a healthy meat alternative for ill patients. It is no wonder. Peanut butter is absolutely packed with protein and this explains why it has been espoused by bodybuilders and sportspeople alike. Gram per gram, peanut butter has similar amounts of protein to a rump steak. It also contains fibre, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamin E. Of course, it is high in fat, hence the previously mentioned lubricant properties. But unlike meat, peanut butter mostly contains unsaturated healthy fats which are good for our heart health. Although unsurprisingly, the high fat content also makes peanut butter high in calories and the super spread should, therefore, be eaten in moderation. And by humans.
I make this point because the other day, I unfortunately spotted another crime against peanut butter in the flagrant promotion of a new version that has been created…for DOGS! Peamutt Butter is now available as a dog ‘treat’ in a supermarket near you. As a cat owner I cannot recommend it because despite the entertainment value of watching your pet try to get peanut butter off the roof of their mouth it can also be choking hazard if a little pet gets too much of a mouthful. And ultimately, it is just wrong. What the world is coming to when there seems to be peanut butter abuse everywhere I look? I can only hope that if the two spies really wasted a peanut butter sandwich then at least they did it with an inferior imposter jar. But if the evidence shows that they are guilty as charged then they should face the full force of the law and perhaps a lifetime ban from the sticky spread. In the meantime I will have turn my despair to joy by cooking with it.
Many people eat peanut butter daily in a classic PB sandwich or in a spin-off version of PB&J and PB & banana. However, the number of different ways of also using peanut butter as an ingredient in savoury and sweet recipes is absolutely endless. Personally speaking, as a runner, I like to include it in a post-workout recovery snack but I am also just as likely to use it in a spicy satay sauce or in a dough to make scones. This week I am using it to make an extremely moreish and comforting Peanut butter and pumpkin soup which I think is perfect for the autumn weather. Just eat it with some crusty bread to dip into.