Today is National Peanut Butter Day.

It’s been particularly popular over the last century or so, if you look back even further, you’ll find that peanut butter has been the nutty, crunchy wind beneath our wings for centuries.

There’s evidence that Incas in Peru were using peanuts as far back as 1500 BC, and they were crunching them up several hundred years ago.

Communities in Brazil ground up the peanuts, too: they would mix them with maize as part of a drink.

Africans brought peanuts to North America in the 18th century, and while they were originally used on this continent as animal feed, the peanuts kept getting more and more popular as time went on.

By the end of the 1800s, technology made it easier to grow, harvest and sell peanuts, which is about when circuses and vaudeville would sell roasted peanuts as cheap refreshments.

(The term “peanut gallery” comes from this practice, though because it was also often used as an insult to Black patrons, the phrase is on the outs.)

In the early 20th century, scientist George Washington Carver encouraged cotton farmers who’d had their fields ruined by boll weevils to switch to peanut growing.

That saved their soil, and the hundreds of peanut-based products Carver developed helped the farmers helped save their livelihoods.

As for peanut butter, possibly the biggest influence was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who ran a famous spa/sanitarium in Michigan.

He wanted to curb what he saw as Americans’ unhealthy appetites (regarding food and well beyond) and his prescriptions for leading a pure, healthy life included having cereal for breakfast and frequently eating a paste made from ground peanuts.

Those two trends stuck even as many of Kellogg’s other ideas fell by the wayside.

Peanut butter was shown off to the world at the 1904 World’s Fair.

It became a pantry staple during World War I, when meat was being rationed and people needed protein.

But peanut butter would climb even further.

In 1921, Joseph Rosefield patented the process to partially hydrogenate the oil in peanut butter, which ended the need to stir peanut oil back into the spread.

And then sliced bread was invented in the late 1920s.

Making a sandwich only took as long as spreading a little peanut butter between two pieces of bread.

After that, it was peanut butter’s world and the rest of us just lived in it.

That reminds me of a study from the 2000s, in which a group of dozens of scientists published a research study called “The Effects of Peanut Butter on the Rotation of the Earth.”

This is the entire paper: “So far as we can determine, peanut butter has no effect on the rotation of the earth.”

A Brief History of Peanut Butter (Smithsonian)

The Effects of Peanut Butter on the Rotation of the Earth (Improbable Research)

If we’re peanut butter, our Patreon backers are our jelly. Or vice versa. 

Photo by Marco Verch, Professional Photographer, via Flickr/Creative Commons