The great peanut butter debate: creamy vs. crunchy
Since the dawn of the modern peanut butter age (1884!), a relentless debate has raged over which butter has the best consistency: creamy or crunchy.
To debate this age-old question, we've enlisted super-smooth executive editor Kevin Alexander and crunchaholic staff writer Dan Gentile to spar off with their words, because hand-to-hand combat is impractical since they live in different cities.
Read on to hear both sides of the argument, then let us know your textural allegiance in the comments.
The case for creamyBy Kevin Alexander
On crunchy peanut butter being annoying to spread and hippiesHave you ever tried to take a knife and use it to spread gravel mixed with Elmer’s glue onto a soft porous surface? Of course you haven’t, because YOU ARE NOT A CRAZY PERSON, but that is what it’s like spreading crunchy peanut butter. It’s a horror of culinary calamities, especially if you’re dealing with non-toasted bread, and, most of the time, you’re dealing with non-toasted bread. It tears in half, it bunches up into peanut clumps, and it is not a great user experience. Smooth, on the other hand, is exactly that. The name alone implies that you’re going to have a pleasant experience. People who are described as smooth win awards at prestigious advertising firms and have sex with attractive partners regularly while driving foreign sports cars. People described as crunchy are just hippies, and even typing out 'no one wants to eat a hippie' is gross.
On the inconsistency inherent in crunchy; peanut rouletteOnce you’ve finally managed to spread the crunchy pile of peanuts across your battered, weary bread, then, hopefully, put some sour cherry jam on that thing, because SOUR CHERRY JAM IS AMAZING, BUT THAT’S ANOTHER STORY, you come to another problem. Taste sensation. As I previously stated rather eloquently, crunchy peanut butter inevitably creates random pockets of peanuts almost sans butter. One second you’ll be chewing smooth peanut-y bliss, and, the next second, your mouth is dry from eight peanuts overwhelming the flavor of that lovely sour cherry jam, and the lightly toasted bâtard. Maybe some people like this inconsistency and find that this type of Peanut Roulette somehow spices up their mundane lives, but I am not one of those people, and you shouldn’t be either.
On how looking at it is grossNow I’m not a shallow person. I usually prefer to stare into the dark depths of a person’s soul rather than judge them on looks alone, but this is a fu**king debate, and since I plan to coarsely chop Dan’s argument up from all angles like the stupid peanuts they put in stupid crunchy peanut butter, it must be said: crunchy peanut butter is ugly. I’ve witnessed our most lead-stomached food photographers nearly dry-heave at the thought of having to take pictures of that bumpy brown goo. Smooth peanut butter, on the other hand, looks so creamy and like a just-paved road of deliciousness. Crunchy is like the road right before they pave it, when the town is fighting with the Department of Public Works’ union head about overtime wages, and so they just leave it all shi**y and bumpy, and put orange cones around it, and you end up popping your tire just after your warranty expires.
On the irrefutable evidence of the majorityFinally, friends, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There is something called the National Peanut Board. And, aside from making deals in peanut butter-filled back rooms and approving changes to Mr. Peanut’s attire, they also keep tabs on all sorts of peanut-related topics in the United States. And it turns out, 60% of Americans prefer smooth peanut butter to crunchy. Now this is America, and, as a constitutional democracy, we usually like to settle things with a majority vote. Well, here we are. The majority has spoken. Creamy retains the office of the victor for another four years, and crunchy can go back to Iowa to glad-hand donors sandwiched between white bread and cellophane in the caucus kitchens.
The case for crunchyBy Dan Gentile
On my personal journey to the crunchy sideBefore I regale you with sticky mathematical proofs and undeniable flavor logic, let me admit I was not always a crunchy evangelist. I was raised on peanut butter that was as smooth as my own bottom, which was baby-like until around the age of 13. This is coincidentally the year that I was given a say in grocery selection.
I remember the day fondly. After reaching across the aisle, my household turned from a red-top Jif state to a blue one overnight in perhaps the greatest textural gerrymandering in Texas history. I had surprised even my choosy Mom with my newfound interest in crunchiness. But I won over my whole family, partly because I was a brat, but largely because I was right.
On seeing the forest for the crunchThe primary reason people eat peanut butter is satiation. In terms of spreads, it is the unrivaled king of getting-you-not-hungry. Distant cousins hummus and Vegemite kiss its chunky feet. Would they swear fealty to a creamy spread? I think not, and here's why:
The extra peanut crunch helps fill you up. It's that simple.
First it slows down the mastication, which is a word that creamy loyalists probably don't even understand. It means to chew. You know, like what you do to pieces of substantial food that you put in your mouth.
But secondly, it's giving your hunger a little something extra. It's like butter with a Christmas bonus. What sort of Scrooge doesn't believe in Christmas bonuses? “No thank you, I would not like a Christmas bonus,” said no one ever.
On how you can't spell peanuts without nutsI don't think it's crazy to say that peanut is the more important word in the term 'peanut butter'. You're there for the legume. And yes, a peanut is a legume; I checked.
So if 'peanut' wears the word-pants, then it only follows that its texture should be dominant. A jar of peanut butter is no Land O'Lakes. I will not need to spread this in a paper-thin layer and expect it to melt into a surface to saturate it with peanut-ness.
Peanut butter stands on top. You want it to have girth. Body. Volume. Stature. Like a nice head of hair, not an oily combover that is definitely not going to encourage you to buy a used automobile. You want that peanut butter to be like a firm handshake, not a soft upper arm touch from an inappropriately friendly waiter.
It's that hearty substantive texture that endeared America to the peanut in the first place. By churning it into a viscous butter, you're basically cutting off its nuts.
On form following crunch-tionPeanut butter's best friend is jelly. They usually hang out between two pieces of bread. There's incredible cartoon potential there, but -- TV treatments aside -- the reason I bring it up is that peanut butter is not eaten in a vacuum, and you must consider the company it keeps.
So let's look at it mathematically:
Given: a sandwich should achieve textural equilibrium
Given: peanut butter (x) + jelly (y) + bread (z) = a balanced sandwich
Given: y = squishy and z = soft
Therefore, x + squishy + soft = a balanced sandwich
Prove: x = crunchy
Creamy + squishy + soft = a soggy mess
Crunchy + squishy + soft = a balanced sandwich
You simply can't argue with the numbers.
Where do you fall on this controversial debate? Let us know in the comments.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He plans to feed the leftover creamy peanut butter from this photoshoot to his dog, if she will eat it. Which she probably won't. Follow him to adorable Shih Tzu pics at @Dannosphere.