An Ode to Crunchy Peanut Butter
There are two types of breakfast people in this world: crunchy and creamy peanut butter people. This carries across all other major breakfast dichotomies—savory vs. sweet, hot vs. cold, scrambled vs. over-easy. One person scarfs down a bowl of Life cereal so it doesn’t lose definition in its sugar-dusted corners while another leaves Lucky Charms marinating in milk for half an hour, returning only to ladle up the rainbow-streaked pulp that remains. Some object even to toast, of all things, because it’s “too hard.” (I’m subtweeting here.)
Texture is often overlooked as an aspect of flavor, but in the war of crunchy vs. fork-tender breakfasts, the deck is stacked for the latter. The banana-nutella-crepe crowd beats out the fruit salad and granola fans in any popularity contest, and how many would choose a breakfast tostada over a breakfast burrito? It’s a choice that can earn jeers at the brunch table. Even crispy bacon vs. soft bacon is somehow contentious, and pity the generous at-home breakfast chef suffering a backseat bacon fryer with a stopwatch. No more clearly are textural allegiances drawn than in the realm of peanut butter, where crunchy vs. creamy could divide a household.
I’m a born-again extra-crunchy peanut butter eater. I was raised on creamy Skippy—settling for Teddie old-fashioned smooth at my grandmother’s, a string of adjectives that still calls to mind a puddle of nut oil refusing to cooperate with the rest of the jar—which was spread on everything from after-school peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches to celery sticks and rice cakes in my later elementary years. I used to bite the crust off my PB&F sandwich all the way around, then, with an emergency cup of milk on hand, savor the sticky pillow of confection I’d created. It was like eating silly putty, and it was my favorite snack.
I was such a creamy peanut butter child that crunchy peanut butter had hardly even occurred to me. You would have to be an entirely different kind of family to have crunchy peanut butter, I thought, like kids who went to Sunday school every week, or weren’t allowed to eat fast food. I can’t remember when I first tasted it, or whether I enjoyed it when I did, but by the time I was grocery shopping for myself, in college, I was a crunchy PB devotee.
Gone were the Fluffernutter sandos and rice cakes, replaced by the twice- or thrice-weekly hangover salve of a spoonful of peanut butter before bed. On a spoon, creamy peanut butter is like peanut-butter-flavored frosting--it’s too creamy. It demands spreading, and two grocery items was apparently too many for my dorm lifestyle to handle. Crunchy peanut butter solved this problem handily; much like Smucker’s Goober Grape PB & J, it was pre-assembled. It was spread on itself. The familiar glob of peanut butter frosting now included a second texture, as though it were an entire snack item, one tablespoon at a time. My hangovers remained at bay, and I felt marginally more adult.
I’ve since changed both textures and brands, and more reliably buy things on which to spread my extra-crunchy Jif, but my incredulity with the other side remains. Who would ever eat creamy peanut butter? I ask myself. If I knew then what I know now... but judge not, lest ye change your mind and have to judge yourself in retrospect.
Still, all things aren’t exactly equal. According to the Jif website, the largest extra-crunchy peanut butter size available (non-commercially) is 40 ounces—a whopping two and a half pounds. I dream about this 40-ounce tub—anything above one pound can’t reasonably called a jar—but I’ve yet to find anything larger than 16 ounce tub. But the search continues. Crunchy is worth it.