The man nicknamed ‘Black Leonardo’ is kinda my idol. He’s an exemplar of taking a simple, widespread crop and turning it into 30 gazillion useful products that we still know and love today. As a staff member of an institute of technology, I am a big fan of making simple things industrially and technologically useful. In addition, Carver was a huge proponent of education, focusing on the education of former slaves in agriculture and related areas to make them self-sufficient.
While Carver did not in fact invent peanut butter (the recipe he published for home-made peanut butter was pretty much standard for the time and not really similar to current commercial recipes), he had a close and personal relationship with the un-nut. Which is why he may or may not be disturbed by the current food uses of his nut in the products of Peanut Butter and Co. While some of the peanut butters are interesting and potentially awesomely good – ‘Dark Chocolate Dreams’ and ‘The Heat is On’ to name a few – others leave me wrinkling my nose. Do we really need cinnamon raisin pb? And the honey flavored variety – how is that any different from the pb&j premixed jars that failed to revolutionize the industry?
Still, there are aspects of the marketing and product line that I enjoy. For one, the cartoon monkey mascot holding his little peanut instead of the typical banana is cute. I have no idea what monkeys have to do with peanuts, or if they ever really encounter them in the wild, but it’s still cute. Also, the peanut butter milkshakes available at the sandwich shop in NYC are probably great – if I ever get there. I am intrigued as well by their cookbook, chock-full of pb recipes and with an introduction by Jerry Seinfeld. I have no idea what Seinfeld knows about food, but it’s still an intriguing idea. Finally, they also make raspberry marshmallow fluff. Whoa.
Ultimately, all this has done exactly what it was supposed to – next time I’m in the store, I’ll probably pick up a jar of one of these unique butters for testing without guilt. After all, the company is highly socially motivated, both in New York and in its product line. And even though innovation with widespread application is lacking from this particular company, I definitely think they are moving in the right direction.