Peanut butter & jelly
Who invented this popular sandwich, why & when? The when is easy to document, the why is a relatively simple matter of technology, economics & commerce. The who? Is still a mystery.
Let's start with a quick study of the ingredients. Food historians tell us that finely chopped nuts (especially almonds) were regularly used by ancient cooks in a variety of dishes. BUT! It wasn't until the late 19th century that peanut butter...as we know it...came on the market. Did you know that peanut butter was first marketed as a health food? Ancient cooks also knew how to preserve fruit. BUT! It wasn't until the 15th century that modern jellies/jams/preserves were made. Ancient cooks also made bread. BUT! Sliced pre-packaged bread...the stuff we Americans use today to make our peanut butter & jelly sandwiches...didn't happen until the late 1920s. Interesting, yes? More notes on the history of PB&J ingredients:"The first located reference to the now immortal peanut butter and jelly sandwich was published by Julia Davis Chandler in 1901. This immediately became a hit with America's youth, who loved the double-sweet combination, and it has remained a favorite ever since...During the early 1900s peanut butter was considered a delicacy and as such it was served at upscale affairs and in New York's finest tearooms. Ye Olde English Coffee House made a "Peanut Butter and Pimento Sandwich." The Vanity Fair Tea-Room served its peanut butter with watercress...The Colonia Tea-Room served peanut butter on toast triangles and soda crackers. That peanut butter could be combined with so many divers products demonstrated that it was a relatively neutral platform providing a nutty taste and a sticky texture that bound together various ingredients.
Peanut butter sandwiches moved down the class structure as the price of peanut butter declined due to the commercialization of the industry. Peanut butter's use also moved down the age structure of the nation as manufacturers added sugar to the peanut butter, which appealed to children. The relationship between children and peanut butter was cemented in the late 1920s, when Gustav Papendick invented a process for slicing and wrapping bread. Sliced bread meant that children could make sandwiches themselves without slicing the bread with a potentially dangerous knife. As a consequence of low cost, high nutrition, and ease of assembling, peanut butter sandwiches became one of the top children's meals during the Depression. "
---Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea, Andrew F. Smith [University of Illinois Press:Urbana] 2002 (p. 35)
[NOTE: this book is the BEST source for information on the history of peanuts & peanut butter. It is well researched and copiously documented. Ask your librarian to help you find a copy].
"Peanut butter sandwiches moved down the class structure as the price of peanut butter declined. After the invention of sliced bread in the 1920s, children could make their own sandwiches without using a sharp knife. The combination of these two factors helped make peanut butter sandwiches one of the top children's meals in America. Beginning in the 1920s, manufacturers lobbied school cafeterias to buy inexpensive peanut butter. Its flavor was liked by children, and minimum time and equipment were required to prepare it."
---"Peanut Butter," Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Solomon H. Katz, editor in chief [Thomson Gale:Detroit] 2003, Volume 3 (p. 56) (p. 12)
In the 1920s peanut butter sandwiches were quite adventuresome.
"Suggestions for Various Beech-Nut Peanut Butter Sandwiches.
1. One-half cupful of Beech-Nut Peanut Butter and of finely chopped seeded raisins moistened with two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice.
2. One-half cupful each of Beech-Nut Peanut Butter and stoned chopped prunes moistened with two tablespoonfuls of orange juice.
3. Spread slices of bread generously with Beech-Nut Peanut Butter then fill with thick slices of tomato which have been allowed to stand in French dressing for fifteen minutes.
4. Spread slices of bread with Beech-Nut Peanut Butter and fill with chopped celery mixed with one tablespoonful of minced pimientos to each cupful of celery and a little salad dressing. Season with salt and paprika.
5. Blend together equal quantities of Beech-Nut Peanut Butter and cream cheese, spread on slices of bread, lay lettuce leaves moistened with French dressing on half the slices, sprinkle generously with stuffed olives and cover with the remaining slices of bread.
6. Spread slices of thinly buttered bread with Beech-Nut Peanut Butter, then with Beech-Nut Orange Marmalade and cut into finger lengths. These sandwiches are also very delicious toasted before being cut."
---The Beech-Nut Book: A Book of Menus And Recipes, Ida Bailey Allen [Beech-Nut Packing Co.: Canajoharie N.Y.] 1923 (p. 22)
Peanut Butter and Apricot Sandwich
Peanut and Pimento Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Raisin Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Salted Peanut Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich
Peanut Salad Sandwich
Peanut and Celery Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Cabbage Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Orange Sandwich (orange juice & peel)
Peanut Butter amd Marshmallow Sandwich
Peanutpine Sandwich (peanut butter, honey, walnuts, lettuce, pineapple)
Peanut Butter and Prune Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Ham Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Tomato Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich
Pimcel Sandwich (celery, pimento, salad dressing, salt & paprika)
Peanut Butter and Ginger Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Currant Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Maple Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Strawberry Sandwich (strawberry jam)
Egg and Peanut Butter Sandwich
Peanut Butter & Cherry Sandwich
Dixieland Sandwich (roasted peanuts, fried bacon, pimentos & salad dressing)
Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
Peanut and Lettuce Sandwich
Southern Sandwich (tomatoes, mayonnaise & salted peanuts on whole wheat)
Peanut Butter and Chili Sandwich (on wheat)
Peanut Butter, Cheese, and Olive Sandwich
Peanut Butter and Olive Sandwich (with mayo on white or rye)
Peanutraise Sandwich (raisins, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, lemon juice & orange juice)
---Seven Hundred Sandwiches, Florence A. Cowles [Little, Brown: New York]
Peanuts (aka ground-nuts, ground-peas, goober peas) are a new world food. Archaeological evidence suggests the first peanut butters (ground peanuts, really) were made by Ancient South American Indians. Peanuts were introduced to the Old World by European explorers. These nuts thrived in Africa. Historians tell us that peanuts were introduced to North America by Europeans via Africa.
Peanut butter, as we know it today, was introduced in the second half of the 19th century. It was originally promoted as a health food. Nut butters were valued for their high protein content and easy digestion. Peanut butter was a perfect alternative to meat in a time when the industry was rife with public health concerns. At first, peanut butter was a food known mostly to wealthy people who frequented health spas. Before long, the product was available to the public at large, though companies targeted their promotions to the upper classes. Recipes for early 20th-century fancy tea sandwiches sometimes included "nut butter." When that market was saturated, companies began adding sugar to make the product more appealing to children. Bingo! The popularity of the product soared and to this day is a staple in most American pantries. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches & Peanut butter cookies have become standard American fare.
Food historians currently entertain several theories regarding the origin (invention, if you will) of peanut butter. While ground peanuts were used by native Americans and Africans early on, John Harvey Kellogg (of Battle Creek Michigan cereal fame) was the first person to obtain an American patent for the process . In the late 19th century many American households owned grinders for coffee and meat. Special grinders were also made purposely for grinding nuts.
"Early peanut butters had several problems. The first was that peanut oil has a melting point below room temperature. Gravity separated the oil, which then oxidized and turned rancid. Likewise, salt added to the peanut butter separated and crystallized. Grocers received peanut butter in tubs or pails and were advised to use a wooden paddle to stir it frequently...During the early years of the twentieth century, William Norman, an English chemist, invented a method of saturating unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, thus preventing them from turning rancid. In 1922, Joseph L. Rosefield...applied these principles to peanut butter. He developed a process to prevent oil separation and spoilage in peanut butter. He removed 18 percent of the liquid oil and replaced it with an equal amount of hydrogenated oil, which was solid at room temperature. The result was a semisolid peanut butter; no oil rose to the surface. The peanut butter was thick and creamy and did not stick to the roof of the mouth as much as previous products. Hydrogenated oil permitted a finer grinding of peanuts, which prevented the salt from separating from the peanut butter...Rosefield selected the name 'Skippy' for his new peanut butter. Most likely, the name was derived from a children's comic strip also called 'Skippy...Rosefield introduced creamy and chunky-style peanut butter in 1932. Three years later, the company inaugurated its first wide-mouth peanut-butter jar, which became the industry-standard...Peanut butter was born at the end of the nineteenth century as a health and vegetarian food, but by the 1920s it was a major national product...In less than twenty-five years, peanut butter evolved from a hand ground delicacy to a mass-produced commercial commodity sold in almost every grocery store in America. it was employed in virtually every type of food from soups, salads, sauces, and main courses to desserts and snacks of every description. Peanut butter was versatile, inexpensive, available, and ready to use. Its makers appealed to children, who could make their own sandwiches and other peanut butter treats."
---Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea, Andrew F. Smith [University of Illinois Press: Urbana] 2002 (p. 42-44)
Ella Eaton Kellogg's recipe:
Peanut Butter.--A nut butter mill is desirable for the preparation of nut butter at home. If one designed for the purpose is not obtainable, a coffee or hand wheat mill may be used. Blanch the nuts, but do not roast and grind. The meal thus prepared may be cooked by putting it (dry) in the inner cup of a double boiler and cooking as directed for grains, for eight or ten hours. As it is required for use, add water to make of the desired consistency, and cook again for a few minutes, just long enough to bring out the essential oil of the nuts. Water may be added as soon as the nuts are ground, and the mixture placed in a covered bean pot and baked from eight to ten hours in a moderate oven, if preferred."
---Science in the Kitchen, Mrs. Ella Eaton Kellogg [Modern Medicine Publishing Co.:Battle Creek, MI] 1895 (p. 395)
Early promotional literature
"What is the element generally most lacking in the diet of children? Protein or muscle making foods, and vitamin or protective foods. But children are largely governed by intelligence, and if the right foods are put within their reach they will usually choose them. So keep a jar of Beech-Nut Peanut Butter on your table at all three meals. You will find that the youngsters will love and freely eat it. you can then feel sure that they will be properly feeding their muscles and stocking their bodies with protective vitamins. Spread slices of bread with Beech-Nut Peanut Butter ready for the children before they are called to the table, and you won't have to coax them to eat."
---The Beech-Nut Book: A Book of Menus And Recipes, Ida Bailey Allen [Beech-Nut Packing Co.: Canajoharie N.Y.] 1923 (p. 12)
"It starts out as a sturdy jar of peanut butter; it ends up as a lightweight storage unit or bouncing toy. These are some of the qualities attributed to the new unbreakable jar used to package this classic American nut spread...Other virtues possessed by the polyethene jar include kitchen safety and lower consumer prices resulting from reduced shipping costs. It also adds outdoor convenience when picnicking, travelling and camping. First national distribution of 'bouncing' peanut butter is in a 28-ounce jar size. The container itself weighs one ounce, compared to eight ounces for a glass container of comparable size, and saves six pounds per case in total shipping weight. Transportation saving plus the elimination of breakage and handling costs enable the plastic jar of peanut butter to be priced from five to ten cents lower to the consumer, according to the manufacturer. This high-density, blow-molded poly container is tinted in a peanut butter shade, closed with a continuous thread metal top and labelled with foil. The trade name for 'bouncing' peanut butter is Popeye, a product of the Sussex Foods, Inc. Everett Mass." ---"World of New Foods-Plastic Peanut Butter Jar," Daily Gleaner [Kingston Jamaica], dateline New York, August 26, 1965 (p. 18)
"All this time the [Leavitt Corporation of Everett. Mass.] had 'harbored the hope of getting into the peanut butter business in its own right. Mr. [Jean Paul] Weinstein said; So they bought Sussex Foods, Inc., which held the rights to the Popeye name for its product. Again, some sort of fund approach was sought, and in May the company came out with Popeye peanut butter that bounced. Actually, you can't bounce the peanut butter, but you can bounce the container--because it's made of pliable plastic. The Sussex division is on a three-shift basis, now Mr Weinstein reports, because Popeye peanut butter is bouncing right off the store shelves as fast as they can be put there."
---"Advertising: Another Day in the Nut World," Walter Carlson, New York Times, August 22, 1965 (p. F12)
"Bemis ingenuity licks three more problems for the industry!...a peanut butter jar that weighs one ounce and won't break...Blow Molded Plastic Containers. One large company got the jump on the competition by being the first to package peanut butter in this lightweight, shatterproof plastic jar, designed, colored and manufactured by Bemis. As a bonus benefit, the manufacturer also reduced his shipping costs substantially. (The new jar is eight times lighter than convention ones.) And it bounces when dropped! No mess from Mom, no cut fingers for Junior. A good peanut butter jar! And we can design and manufacture plastic jars that are just as good for mayonnaise, mustard and other foods."
---display ad, Bemis Company, Inc., [Minneapolis] Wall Street Journal, January 28, 1966 (p. 9)
[What did these early jars look like? "Pik Nik" brand.]
Recommended reading: Creamy & Crunchy: an informal history of peanut butter, the all-American food/Jon Krampner (2013)
[NOTE: This book suggests George Bayle's snack food product may have predated Battle Creek Sanitarium health food. Food for thought.]