A Brief History of Peanut Butter

Peanut butter and jelly: Getty; Kellogg: AP; Carver: Getty

The creamy (or chunky) peanut spread has become a mainstay of the American diet.

The recent salmonella outbreak at the Peanut Corporation of America has led to the recall of more than 1,800 peanut-containing products, from off-brand dog biscuits to Trader Joe's vegan pad Thai, and sent sales of peanut butter plunging 25%, despite assurances that jars on supermarket shelves are not tainted. But the panic illustrates just how thoroughly the legume (Arachis hypogaea is, technically, not a nut), fashioned into a paste, has permeated the American diet. Spread on crackers, slathered on celery, melted with chocolate: peanut butter goes with almost anything.

Peanut butter's true inventor is unknown, but Dr. John Harvey Kellogg has...

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