Saturday, January 12, 2013

For the Love of Peanut Butter

Love peanut butter?

I mean really love peanut butter?

As in a love that declares that peanut butter on just about anything makes the meal that much more delicious?

I've loved peanut butter for as long as I can remember.  Except for that brief time in elementary school where I threw up after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Who knows what caused that momentary lapse in health but I was sure it had something to do with the peanut butter.  I swore off those type of sandwiches for years and wouldn't come close to anything related to peanut butter or jelly for some time.

Luckily, I eventually tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again which didn't result in anything remotely disgusting and the love affair was restored.  I was back in love with peanut butter.

Peanut butter and I had a deep relationship while I lived in The Gambia for two years.  Ground nuts as the Gambians called them were grown by everyone.  When you grow ground nuts to help support your family you use them in everything.  Ground nuts in a variety of forms were a staple for all three meals of the day.  Peanut sauces came in varying degrees of hotness, thickness, and consistency.  As Peace Corps volunteers we all compared which host mother made the best peanut sauce recipe.  One of my highlights of helping the women cook was roasting the ground nuts and preparing them to be ground for peanut butter.

Everything takes more time in Africa.  There is no such thing as grabbing a can of peanut butter off the shelf.  

After all the farming and harvesting and collecting and sorting of the ground nuts, they must be picked through and roasted over an open fire in a large cast iron pot.  Mixed with a large spoon, roasting the ground nuts is a work out in and of itself.  Ever taste a hot, freshly roasted nut?  Just do it.

Once the ground nuts are roasted comes the work of grinding by hand.  Again, hot freshly ground peanut butter.  Just try it.    

I would volunteer as often as possible to help the women with the peanut butter.  Little did they know (or at least they never let on to my secret) how much peanut butter and freshly roasted nuts I would consume in the process.

I love peanut butter.

You may ask why this love note to peanut butter?  Perhaps because in every bite of peanut butter I take now I am transported to a time where I felt deeply and intimately connected to the land and to the people of The Gambia.  Perhaps because with the smell of freshly roasted ground nuts I give thanks for the hands of the women who taught me the meaning of working hard and playing even harder.  Perhaps because the world needs all the goodness it can take.        


  1. Ahhh... the roasted ground nuts! Full disclosure: I never did the work you did prepping the ground nuts, but just followed my nose when I could smell the nuts roasting over the fire (the best part!), and got myself a snack.

    Enjoyed reading and the walk down memory lane!

  2. Yes, I remember all the meals I ate just by knowing when different compounds with wonderful cooks would be eating and just happening to be walking around their compound at that time. "Come and Eat!"