I grew up without any peanut butter and jelly in my lunch box–not because I was allergic (and, yeah, the rise of nut allergies has vexed me for decades now), but because it just wasn’t something our family ate. My lunch equivalent was cream cheese and Smuckers red currant jelly on Wonder bread. I remember trying Jif or Skippy once, and finding its texture unpalatable.
It wasn’t until college when I discovered Deaf Smith chunky peanut butter at the co-op, with all the oil you had to stir into it, that I could say I had eaten a whole peanut butter anything.
Personal story aside, I remember WIlliam F Buckley (apparently a pb freak) wondering why peanut butter wasn’t considered a gourmet item. He may have noted that other nut butters, like cashew or almond, were fetishized and sold at a premium price, but not peanut butter. I think I remember him saying, almost with advocacy, that if peanut butter were put in a fancy jar, it could sell for ten times the price.
So, why has peanut butter become the staple, while other nut butters are gourmet items? Is it just about supply, or are other cultural or political forces at work?