A couple of months ago I decided to go on a keto diet of sorts. I say of sorts because I knew I would never give up putting a couple of teaspoons of sugar in my coffee every morning. Nor was I going to fast for 16 hours of the day, and that I was going to be tempted to eat the occasional baked morsel. Not to mention the odd corn chip here and there.
One of the things that swayed me into plunging into keto (besides eating meat) was that peanuts and peanut butter were on the menu. I love peanut butter.
I love hummus and chips too, but peanut butter won out.
I thought it bizarre that legumes were off the table; they’ve been a part of my diet since my mother served me my first pinto bean. And chickpeas are legumes, so bye-bye hummus. And my famous refried beans.
But hello peanut butter!
I’ve been a fan of peanut butter since I was a child and my mother would buy the big cans of welfare peanut butter from our neighbors on welfare in the projects. My mother also bought the big slabs of American cheese from them, but this is all about peanut butter.
It didn’t taste as good as store bought peanut butter like Jiff or Peter Pan, and as a kid I couldn’t put my finger on the difference.
Turns out it took me many, many years to figure that one out, to reach my eureka moment.
That happened when I was living on the Lower East Side in the ‘80s. I lived on East Houston Street with my then wife Kathy, and we discovered a health food store called Prana on First Avenue between 7th and St. Marks place. Besides having fresh ground coffee they had these big jars of organic peanut butter that were actually less expensive than Jiff or Peter pan. The only problem was they didn’t taste the same.
I finally had the temerity to read the labels. Skippy, Jiff, and Peter Pan all contain sugar as well as salt. And they are roasted peanuts! Roasted peanuts taste better than raw peanuts! What a revelation!
So I sought a middle ground, and in-between. Something that was healthy, without sugar, but still with that roasted peanut taste. There were new health food brands coming out, like Smart balance and Smucker’s natural peanut butter. But they all had an inch of oil floating on the top! What a pain in the ass it was to mix it all together- something one is never quite successful at. You end up dripping oil on yourself (if you prefer to eat it out of the jar like me) the first half of the jar and having your teeth glued together when you get to the bottom of the jar.
Have you ever seen a dog eat peanut butter? They spend half the time figuring out why their teeth are stuck together! Well, that’s how I feel when I get to the bottom of a jar of “Natural” peanut butter. Why isn’t it homogenous like Skippy and Jiff? Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils! Skippy and Jiff are made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and not sugar, but high-fructose corn syrup. And Americans eat Skippy and Jiff by the boatload. Which is why a lot of Americans in most of the country look like boatloads.
Well, I got tired of looking like a boatload, so I take care to avoid processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, or both.
Back to natural peanut butter. With the advent of health food stores came grind your own machines, and I decided to try them. After all, what could be more natural than grind your own? But it tasted different. Again, it was raw vs. roasted. And roasted without salt is different from roasted with salt. Now I have to bring a saltshaker to Whole foods if I want my fresh peanut butter to taste like what’s in the jar. Plus, it’s actually more expensive to grind your own, price per pound wise. Don’t even get me started on Fairway’s prices.
So, for my comparison, we’ll stick to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s as they each have their own store brand peanut butter. They both have the floating oil on top, and they both claim to be just peanuts and sea salt. Smooth or crunchy, and there’s an unsalted option. No sugar, high fructose, or partially hydrogenated oils.
Trader Joe’s 16 oz. jar is $1.99. Whole Food’s 365 brand is $2.49, fifty cents more. Of course I’m gonna buy the cheaper one, though a long time ago before there was Trader Joe’s I relied on the 365.
Last week I was in Whole Foods and I decided to splurge, after all I would save a trip to T.J’s and isn’t that worth fifty cents? So I bought a jar of 365, my first in many a moon.
My method of dealing with the oil on top syndrome it to store the jar in the fridge overnight upside down. That way the oil flows down and is at THE BOTTOM of the jar when I open it. It’s also slightly congealed and therefore less watery when I mix it all together. I’ve gotten pretty good results, less oil stains on my at home snack eating tee shirts. So I did the same to my jar of Whole Foods 365. This is a recent discovery so this was my first 365 jar to be put to the test.
Well, wasn’t I surprised when I opened the jar two days later and discovered that the oil came right back to the top! And didn’t seem to have solidified at all!
Very disappointing, especially for fifty cents more. I can only describe it as Watery As Fuck.
I read up on natural peanut butters and such since the W.A.F. 365 peanut butter. On the jars they tell you that the oil naturally rises from the freshly ground “just peanuts.” But I have to tell you; in all the plastic tubs of peanut butter I ever ground myself, with or without salt, I have yet to see the oils rise to the top. It’s just all ground peanuts. So I have to think that the oil in the jars is added. Not naturally rising to the top. Just another finger on the scale. And guess who has the heavier finger in this case?