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Posts Tagged ‘George Washingtom Carver

“The pâté of childhood”*…

North Americans weren’t the first to grind peanuts—the Inca beat us to it by a few hundred years—but peanut butter reappeared in the modern world because of an American, the doctor, nutritionist and cereal pioneer John Harvey Kellogg, who filed a patent for a proto-peanut butter in 1895. Kellogg’s “food compound” involved boiling nuts and grinding them into an easily digestible paste for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a spa for all kinds of ailments. The original patent didn’t specify what type of nut to use, and Kellogg experimented with almonds as well as peanuts, which had the virtue of being cheaper. While modern peanut butter enthusiasts would likely find Kellogg’s compound bland, Kellogg called it “the most delicious nut butter you ever tasted in your life.”

A Seventh-Day Adventist, Kellogg endorsed a plant-based diet and promoted peanut butter as a healthy alternative to meat, which he saw as a digestive irritant and, worse, a sinful sexual stimulant. His efforts and his elite clientele, which included Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth and Henry Ford, helped establish peanut butter as a delicacy. As early as 1896, Good Housekeeping encouraged women to make their own with a meat grinder, and suggested pairing the spread with bread. “The active brains of American inventors have found new economic uses for the peanut,” the Chicago Tribune rhapsodized in July 1897…

… and on to the introduction of “chunky,” the wide-mouth jar, the role of George Washington Carver– the story of the bizarre sanitarium staple that became a spreadable obsession: “A Brief History of Peanut Butter.”

* Food critic Florence Frabricant

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As we spread it thick, we might recall that it was on this date (which is, serendipitously, both National Peanut Butter Day and EWW’s birthday) in 1922 that another childhood favorite, the Eskimo Pie– an ice cream center covered in chocolate– was patented. Christian Kent Nelson, a schoolteacher and candy store owner, claimed to have received the inspiration in 1920 in Onawa, Iowa, when a boy in his store was unable to decide whether to spend his money on ice cream or a chocolate bar.  After experimenting with different ways to adhere melted chocolate to bricks of ice cream, Nelson began selling his invention under the name “I-Scream Bars.”  In 1921, he filed for a patent, and secured an agreement with local chocolate producer Russell C. Stover to mass-produce them under the new trademarked name “Eskimo Pie” (a name suggested by Mrs. Stover), and to create the Eskimo Pie Corporation.  After patent 1,404,539 was issued on January 24, 1922, Nelson franchised the product, allowing ice cream manufacturers to produce them under the now-ubiquitous name.  (The invention made Nelson “rich overnight,” according to a 1922 New York Times article about the dessert. By then, Mr. Nelson, then barely 29, was making $30,000 a week in royalties from sales of the product.)

Ultimately the company was acquired by The Dreyers division of Nestlé– which has, thankfully, announced that it will change the name and packaging.

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