Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food


IN THIS COLUMN:

-- Cover art (downloadable)
-- Author photo (downloadable)
-- Archive of author's radio interviews
-- Archive of author's appearance on FireDogLake Book Salon
-- Author bio



RADIO INTERVIEWS

FIREDOGLAKE BOOK SALON

AUTHOR BIO

Jon Krampner, who has had a lifetime on-and-off affair with peanut butter, is the author of two previous books: The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television (Rutgers University Press, 1997) and Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley (Watson-Guptill/​​Backstage Books, 2006). He lives in Los Angeles and has a slight preference for crunchy.

He is a native of Brooklyn, New York, having grown up in Park Slope before it became hip. The only two foods he consistently ate as a child were hamburgers and peanut butter, and his mother recently reminded him that he even used to put peanut butter on spaghetti.

When he went away to college, he stopped eating peanut butter to see what else the world held gastronomically, and didn't resume eating it until the early 1980's. After a romance ended, he hit the Skippy jar instead of hitting the bottle. His weight ballooned, and he had to go to a gym and consult a nutritionist to get it back under control. He stopped eating it again, and only resumed eating it when he started working on this book. He insists that now he only eats it for research purposes.

He has worked on this book for six years, interviewing leading figures from the peanut and peanut butter industries, immersing himself in library stacks and the internet, making several trips to the peanut-growing regions of the South and even trying to wrap his head around the organic chemistry of hydrogenating peanut butter.

Media Page

IN THIS COLUMN:

1) Author Contact Information
2) Reviews of "Creamy and Crunchy"
3) Articles about "Creamy and Crunchy"
4) Media Release
5) Blurbs for "Creamy and Crunchy"
6) The story behind the book
7) Suggested interview questions
8) Letters to the Editor

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1) Contact information for Jon Krampner:

E-mail 1: pbj@​creamyandcrunchy.com
E-mail 2: bluewombat@​dslextreme.com
Twitter:@​pbj06

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2) REVIEWS OF 'CREAMY AND CRUNCHY'

MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Times Literary Supplement (London)
Bee Wilson, the author of "Consider the Fork," says, "Jon Krampner is a wonderful guide to the many paradoxes of this all-American food." (Link not available without a subscription)

Writing in the May 2013 issue of the august Harvard Business Review, Tim Sullivan calls "Creamy and Crunchy" "scholarly, yet charming and entertaining." You can either take my word for it, or subscribe to HBR online.

ACADEMIC

LIBRARY WEBSITES

BLOGS

3) ARTICLES ABOUT 'CREAMY AND CRUNCHY'

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4) MEDIA RELEASE: FIRST BOOK ON HISTORY OF PEANUT BUTTER HITS THE MARKET

LOS ANGELES -- Peanut butter has been part of the American diet for more than 100 years. But there has been no history of this iconic American food -- until now.

"Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food," published by Columbia University Press, is the first book about the history of peanut butter. Although Columbia has not confirmed it, some peanut butter-philes believe its November 2012 publication date was chosen because November is Peanut Butter Lovers' Month.

Krampner, who has worked on the book for seven years, trudged through the peanut fields of the Florida Panhandle, interviewed leading lights of the peanut and peanut butter industries in Georgia, buried himself in library stacks and even tried to wrap his head around the organic chemistry of hydrogenating peanut butter in order to bring the story of this staple food to American readers.

"Peanut butter holds a unique place in the kitchens and affections of Americans," Krampner says. "When contaminated peanut butter was knowingly shipped out by the Peanut Corporation of America in late 2008, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa thundered, 'What's more sacred than peanut butter?'"

"Creamy and Crunchy" provides an extensive look at peanuts and their nutritional pluses and minuses, focusing on the birth of peanut butter in the 1890's, providing colorful histories of Peter Pan, Skippy and Jif and examining hydrogenation, the most important invention in the history of the peanut butter industry.

Krampner's book investigates the resurgence of natural, or old-fashioned, peanut butter in the early 1970's; the five ways today’s product is different from the original; why Americans love peanut butter so much more than people from most other nations; and the future of the industry.

He also provides tips on peanut butter etiquette (if eating it straight from the jar, use a teaspoon -- unless your girlfriend has just brutally dumped you, in which case a tablespoon is considered acceptable) and concludes with a “best of” list featuring top, taste-tested peanut butters and a timeline of key figures and events in the history of peanut butter.

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5) BLURBS FOR "CREAMY AND CRUNCHY":

"'Creamy and Crunchy' is a fast-paced, entertaining, and wonderfully gossipy look at the history of everything about peanut butter, from nutrition to allergies and genetic modification -- and with recipes, yet. Everyone who loves peanut butter will want to read this book (personally, I prefer crunchy).

-- Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition , Food Studies and Public Health at New York University and author of "What to Eat"

"'Creamy and Crunchy' is a witty, encyclopedic history of one of American's most iconic processed foods. It's chock-full of fun facts and surprising insights into the way we eat today."

-- Aaron Bobrow-Strain, author of "White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf"

"Jon Krampner's 'Creamy and Crunchy' is a delightful book about American's most popular nut butter and sandwich spread. It is action-packed, peopled with medical professionals, corporate giants, captains of industry, hard-hitting advertisers, vegetarians and health-food advocates, and farmers and peanut-butter lovers. It is a well-written, fast-paced, surprising tale about the delicious food we thought we knew. One nibble and you can't stop reading!

-- Andrew F. Smith, author of "Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea"

"As a peanut-butter aficionado, I found this an excellent, convincing book written in a casual journalistic, almost folksy style, which cleverly disguises the real research done for it."

-- Noel Riley Fitch, author of "Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child" and "The Grand Literary Cafes of Europe"

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6) THE STORY BEHIND THE BOOK

In 2006, Jon Krampner published his second book, "Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley." Like the hero of his 1997 book "The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television," Stanley was a tormented genius who lapsed into obscurity because of drinking problems.

Writing a book (at least the way Krampner does it) takes five or six years. For all that aggravation and tsuris (that's Yiddish for trouble), the Fred Coe book only sold 1000 copies, the Kim Stanley book, 3000.

Biography is a punishing genre and Krampner decided to take a break from it. What would he do next? You have to enjoy the subject of your book because you spend so much time with it.

Social histories, especially social histories of food, have become popular in the last 10 years or so. Although he hadn't been eating much of it recently, Krampner was quite a peanut butter enthusiast as a child.

Doing a bit of research, Krampner realized there were only two kinds of books about peanut butter: short, illustrated books (almost pamphlets) for children on how peanut butter is made. And for adults, there were peanut butter cookbooks.

But that was it! Remarkably, given peanut butter's popularity (it's in at least 75 percent of American homes), there was no book about it. In "Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea," Andrew F. Smith devotes a chapter to peanut butter, but that was about it.

Krampner decided to plunge in and now, seven years later, Et voila!

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7) SUGGESTED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

As a former reporter, I understand that your preference is to come up with your own questions and angle for an interview. However, we're all busy these days, so here are some questions to help you get going:

1) What are the five reasons Americans like peanut butter more than people from other countries?

2) What are the five ways peanut butter has changed between the time it was introduced in the 1890's and now?

3) What made you decide to write a book about peanut butter?

4) Have you always been a peanut butter fan? (Hint: No!)

5) What were the biggest obstacles to writing the book?

6) What were the biggest surprises you encountered while researching the book?

7) What are your favorite peanut butters?

8) Did George Washington Carver invent peanut butter?

9) Which is more popular: creamy or crunchy?

10) How much peanut butter is stabilized (or hydrogenated)? How much is natural?

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8) LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

5 SONGS ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER, 5 ABOUT PEANUTS, AND 1 THAT REALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH EITHER