As American as Peanut Butter

Photo by BrianC

I have no idea who came up with the phrase “as American as apple pie,” but I can assure you that no one outside of the U.S. considers apple pie to be as American as Americans think it is.

Peanut butter…well, that’s a completely different story. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that uses as much peanut butter as the U.S., if they use it at all. Or if they even know what it is.

On our trip back to the Olde Country, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend was trying to figure out what the heck peanut butter is. Mind you, she’s an intelligent woman, with her own law firm and all. The woman can even cook, but the whole concept of peanut butter was beyond her. The conversation went something like this:

BIL’s GF: “So, what exactly is peanut butter?”

Me: “It’s just ground up peanuts.”

GF: “Just peanuts?”

Me: “Well, if you’re making it yourself, you may want to add a tablespoon of peanut oil to make it smoother…but yeah, it should just be peanuts.”

GF: “So there’s absolutely no butter in it? Well I guess it can’t be that bad for you then.”

Apparently, the term “butter” throws people off. Outside of the U.S., it’s not seen so much as a texture, but as an ingredient. It made me wonder what foreigners think when they see apple butter or pumpkin butter in the market.
Until recently, I was not such a big fan of the PB myself (that whole cleanse thing I did about a year ago changed that–it was big on nut butters). I still have this theory that no one born outside of the U.S. can really really love peanut butter. A. isn’t a big fan. He’ll pretty much eat it if there is nothing else around and he is famished.

It’s probably like Aussies and Vegemite. Or living in Rome. You just have to be born into it or else it’s never going to feel natural.

So it shouldn’t have come as a total shock (though it kinda did) when I discovered that P was crazy about the stuff. But not in a I-will-have-a-PB&J-sandwich-everyday type of way. More like peanut-butter-reminds-me-of-home type of way.

When we were in Italy, we visited some friends who had just moved away from the Bay Area to live in Venice. They missed some American yumminess, including (but not limited to) dried mangoes from Trader Joe’s, Mexican food, and of course, peanut butter. They were super excited because they had just made a batch of PB using a very powerful food processor. They brought the jar out of the fridge, and P’s eyes just lit up.

Vigorous nodding was happening when I asked if she wanted to taste some. I took a spoon and started scooping some out. One spoon led to four, at which point I gave my friends the jar back. Poor things, I didn’t want P to devour their tiny jar of prized PB in five minutes.

Moments like these always come as a surprise to me. Logically, I know that P was born here and is growing up here. Emotionally, it’s still strange to be bringing up an American girl.

She probably won’t be a completely all-American girl, but much closer than an all-Iranian or all-Italian girl. She will most likely like chocolate more than lavashak (the original fruit roll-up…but without sugar and SUPER tart…what all the Iranian kids want as a treat) and know the names of all the Sesame Street characters (I still don’t know Bert from Ernie).

She’ll like Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak books, and wonder why I gush about Tintin all the time.

Will P really be as American as peanut butter? We may have to start her on Vegemite soon, just to stir the pot (or jar) a bit.

2 thoughts on “As American as Peanut Butter

  1. I can attest to the weird looks and questions from non-Americans. Whenever I go hiking here in Asia, I always bring PB&J or (PB & banana) sandwiches for myself and my 2 American friends. It would feel wrong not to. Everyone else–from the UK, Korea, Japan, Aus–always finds my PB so bizarre! Never mind that they bring things like a can of pineapple or roast duck in their backpacks. Keep eating those sandwiches, P!

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