The Crust of the Matter

Ever heard of Smucker’s Uncrustables for kids? These frozen peanut butter sandwiches (of dubious nutritional caliber) come in a variety of flavors, are made from whole wheat or white crustless bread, and are thawed out an hour or two before lunch or snacktime.

I bring this up because earlier this week I read a brief post over at Bargain Briana about a kitchen tool that lets you make your own Uncrustables-style sealed pocket sandwiches. I read the article and promptly left a comment hoping to generate a little discussion on the broader topic of cutting crusts. Frankly, I’m kinda miffed that Briana apparently not only opted to toss out my comment, but didn’t even email me. Okay, fair enough—her blog, her prerogative. Perhaps she just didn’t want to get mired down in the dicey, controversial waters of crust-cutting. So, I thought I’d broach the topic here:

Let’s not mince words: I’m opposed to the idea of cutting crusts off of sandwiches for kids on a number of levels:

  1. Babies don’t come out of the chute with an inbred hatred of bread crusts; parents implant that notion. Why foster the idea that crusts are bad?
  2. Crust-cutting not only creates more work for harried parents, but unnecessary waste as well. Why instill the expectation that someone will always gladly take the time to needlessly trim off and discard an otherwise good portion of a sandwich?
  3. The crust is the most nutritious part of bread, containing 8 times more antioxidants and more dietary fiber, which helps prevent colon cancer! Why wouldn’t you want your kid(s) to have the full benefit of the foods you’ve chosen (and paid hard-earned money) for them to eat?
  4. And lastly, in support of my pro-crust position, I offer the following:

    If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars [and] heavens.
    —English poet, Robert Browning (1812-1889)

  5. But maybe I’m missing something here. Is there a valid reason for crust-cutting that simply eludes me? Am I some kinda retrograde Luddite or just being downright negligent by not trimming the nefarious crusts off of Liam’s otherwise delicious sammiches?

    So, what do you think? Do you cut the crusts off of your kids’ bread?

Peanut Power

Capping off the coverage of March as National Peanut Month, it seemed only fitting to mention Project Peanut Butter, a non-profit organization created by Dr. Mark Manary which has done extensive field trials in Malawi from 2001-2007 on fighting severe malnutrition using Plumpy’nut.

Plumpy’nut, Nutriset’s amazing Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) product, is based on a fortified peanut paste and offers an incredible 95% recovery rate for severely malnourished children. Project Peanut Butter operates the first local Plumpy’nut Plumpynut wrapperproduction facility in Africa and distributes this therapeutic food to malnourished Malawian children in more than 20 nutritional rehabilitation centers. Last year, the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, the World Health Organization, & UNICEF issued a joint statement that recognized Project Peanut Butter’s treatment protocols, in conjunction with Plumpy’nut, as the most effective method by which to treat severely malnourished children globally.

It’s estimated that half of all child deaths worldwide are caused by malnutrition. In fact, Joe Stirt’s recent Memo to Nick Negroponte notes that only 3% of the world’s 20 million malnourished children have access to ready-to-use food. While Joe’s post unintentionally connects with one of my main concerns about MIT’s overzealous One Laptop Per Child project (that being, do starving children really need a $100 laptop?), I believe his main point is that the cost of providing critically-needed nourishment for 3rd world children is practically trivial.

Yup, just $15 (a tax-deductible donation) allows Project Peanut Butter to offer a Plumpy’nut-based 4-week nutritional recovery protocol to bring a critically-malnourished child back from the brink.

$15 worth of peanut paste to save a child’s life? Peanut power, indeed!

Nutty Uses for Peanut Butter

Empty Jar of Peanut ButterKeeping the ball rolling on my coverage of National Peanut Month, I thought it might be fun to toss out a few unexpected or downright wacky uses for peanut butter that I’ve come across recently.

If you thought slathering an apple wedge or celery stick with peanut butter for an afternoon snack was living on the edge, well, just hold on for some really far-out ideas:

  • Let a tablespoon of peanut butter slowly dissolve in your mouth to cure hiccups!
  • Having trouble getting your pet to take some medication?   Most cats & dogs love the taste of peanut butter, so hide the pill in peanut butter and you should have no trouble getting them to swallow it!
  • Remove stubborn wax stains on your car’s rubber or non-painted plastic surfaces by applying a little creamy peanut butter to the stain with a soft toothbrush.   Peanut butter’s oils dissolve the wax and it’s just sticky & abrasive enough to lift the stain.
  • Likewise, gently rub peanut butter in a circular motion on road tar or tree sap that’s gotten on your car then wash with sudsy water to rinse off any residue.
  • Create a cheap & simple outdoor bird feeder by spreading peanut butter into the nooks & crannies of a pine cone, then coating with birdseed.
  • To get chewing gum out of hair, clothing, or carpet, scrape up what you can, rub with an ice cube to stiffen, then rub a small glob of creamy peanut butter into the gum and wipe up the whole mess with a clean cloth.
  • Make Chocolate & Peanut Butter Playdough for your kids to play with!
  • You can even shave with creamy peanut butter!   Reportedly, former senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona once did this while on a camping trip.

Nutty Nuggets

Continuing with the celebration of Nat’l Peanut Month, I thought I’d offer up some interesting peanut info.   If any of this helps settle a bar bet, well, ya owe me a brew…

Historically Nuts

The peanut is a South American legume with an ancient history.   Peanut shells have been found in archaeological digs that date back to 2500 BC but it’s likely that they were being consumed even before then.   Interestingly, none of the 4 main varieties of peanut (Peruvian, Spanish, Valencia, & Virginia) prevalent in the U.S. came here directly.   Instead, the peanut took the slow boat, migrating either through Africa or the Orient to North America as a result of Spanish and/or Portuguese traders.

Historically, the largest grower of peanuts in the world had been India, but China began dominating production in the 1990s.   By 2000, China was yielding almost 40% of the world crop, and India almost 25%, with the U.S. in 3rd place with only 6% of worldwide peanut production.

Peanut Trivia

  • About 2/3rds of the worldwide peanut crop is processed for oil and peanut oil accounts for 8% of the worlds edible oil production.
  • There are about 1,218 peanuts in a 28-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • An average of 2,860 pounds of peanuts are harvested from each acre of peanut plants and an acre of peanuts will make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.
  • Roasted peanuts were first sold at a P.T. Barnum circus in the late-1800s.
  • The term "peanut gallery" was popularized in the late 19th century because those in the cheapest, uppermost seats in a theater could throw peanuts at people in the more expensive seats below.
  • Alabama, Florida, New Mexico, & South Carolina all contribute, but the predominant peanut-growers in the U.S. are Georgia & Texas.
  • The official state crop of Georgia is the peanut and that state produces almost ½ of the total U.S. peanut crop.
  • About ½ of all of the peanuts grown in the U.S. for food use ends up in a jar of peanut butter.
  • On average, Americans each eat 3 lbs of peanut butter per year.   That’s about 700 million pounds, or enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon!
  • Peanut butter’s high protein content draws moisture from your mouth.   That’s why it sticks to the roof of your mouth.
  • On May 15, 1963, U.S. astronaut Gordon "Gordo" Cooper ate bite-sized peanut butter sandwiches during the last Mercury space flight mission.


Go Nuts in March

National Peanut Month is upon us!   What began as National Peanut Week in 1941, expanded to a month-long celebration in 1974.   And it’s probably no coincidence that March is also National Nutrition Month because the lowly peanut is quite the nutritional powerhouse!

peanut graphicWhile peanuts aren’t actually nuts—they’re legumes, related to peas, lentils, chickpeas & other beans—they’re loaded with healthful goodness, with almost 8 grams of protein per serving and feature lots of dietary fiber, vitamin E, Niacin, Folate, & Manganese. They’re also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and two high-powered antioxidants: p-Coumaric acid & Resveratrol, the highly-touted component found in red grapes & wine. In fact, peanuts pack in more antioxidants than either apples or carrots!

And you can easily get your fill of those healthful morsels by indulging often in what Lindsey Knerl calls The Poor Man’s Protein or what chef & writer Florence Fabricant refers to as “The pâté of childhood.”

Yup, good ol’ peanut butter!

So, grab up a PBJ and lift a cheer for National Peanut Month!