In her biweekly column, A Shared Tradition, CIA grad and amateur food historian Molly Siegler cruises around the world (and into the depths of her pantry) to explore the versatility of a single food item.
This week: Molly digs up peanut buttery recipes, both sweet and savory.
Photo by James Ransom
Peanut butter is a pantry staple that has a reach far beyond PB&Js. Sure, the goopy condiment can be found in the lunch boxes of kindergarteners, but it also stars in a dipping sauce for street food in Indonesia. In many grocery stores, we’re faced with a dazzling array of peanut butter variations that speaks to our fascination with the ingredient.
I admit to a long and illustrious life with peanut butter -- though my stickiest memory isn’t particularly glamorous. I had a very rigid understanding of the proper lunch during my secondary school years, and that view always included a peanut butter and honey sandwich on wheat bread. Luckily, my father perfected the construction of these essential sandwiches and passed his knowledge on to me. His secret? The peanut butter is spread on both pieces of bread. Genius.
Satay originated in this island nation though its popularity has spread worldwide.
Peanut Stew is a hearty meal found all over West Africa often with the addition of chicken or goat.
Though these Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies may seem awfully familiar to those of you who ran the sleepover circuit in the 80s and 90s, Scott Peacock’s version of these ubiquitous "no-bake" cookies is cooler by default. (Try Merrill's cookies, too, pictured above.)
The cooking style known as Suya features grilled meat or seafood marinated in a silky sauce of homemade peanut butter and chiles.
These are just a few of the ways I like to travel by way of peanut butter. What other regionally inspired flavors would you use to make this creamy or crunchy condiment your own? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Do you love a good food theme as much as I do? Tell me what food items or themes you'd like to see featured in this column and your idea could be the subject of an upcoming post!
Like this post? See Molly's previous topic: Drinking Chocolate.
Molly is a chef and food educator living and cooking in Northern Wisconsin. When she's not dreaming up themed menus, she's dishing out other delicious content as the editorial assistant for the Whole Foods Market Cooking program.