Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea
University of Illinois Press, 2002 - 234 pages
Harmoniously paired with chocolate, as American as baseball games and after-school snacks, and, when ground into a creamy paste, quite possibly the best thing to happen to sliced bread -- the peanut is one of the most versatile and beloved of American food icons. In this first culinary history of the protein-laden legume, Andrew F. Smith follows the peanut's rise from a lowly, messy snack food to its place in haute cuisine and on candy racks across the country.
Shunned by southern aristocrats and the northern elite in antebellum America, peanuts were originally considered ungenteel and only fit for slaves and the poor to eat. But as Americans grew more keen on the portable, filling, and inexpensive snack, peanuts became available at fairs, circuses, and theaters, whereupon street vendors first enticed consumers with offers for "Fresh, roasted peanuts!" Unlike other food fads, peanuts thrived, and by the turn of the twentieth century they were big business.
Chronicling how peanut consumption and production changed throughout World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and, more recently, as a result of corporate mergers and globalization, Smith highlights the peanut's role in the ways economic distress, wartime conditions, industrialization, and health trends reflect and inform our culinary landscape.
Along the way, Smith introduces readers to folks such as George Washington Carver, who paved the way for the peanut's popularity by promoting hundreds of uses for it, from peanut coffee to peanut flour. Smith also details the exploits of lesser-known peanut pioneers, such as John Harvey Kellogg, the early advocate of vegetarianism who extolled the virtues of peanut butter, and apair of Italian immigrant peanut vendors who built the Planters dynasty with help from a fortuitous advertising campaign featuring Mr. Peanut.
Chock-full of photographs, advertisements, and peanut recipes from as early as 1847, this entertaining and enlightening volume is a testament to the culinary potential and lasting popularity of the goober pea.
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Origin and Dispersion
Slave Food to Snack Food
Soldiers and Vendors
Unshelled and Shelled
Soup to Oil Nuts
Sweet and Nutty
Scientists and Promoters S6
War and Peace