I JUST ATE a peanut butter sandwich. On one slice of bread, I applied a thin layer of Whole Foods’s Peanut Butter made with “organic dry unsalted roasted peanuts” that I had as delightedly as a child ground at the Upper Georgetown store. On the other slice, I spread an equally calibrated dose of Winn Dixie’s Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter from near the bottom of two prized jars I packed in my recent exodus from the Sunshine State.
Nutrition information for Winn Dixie’s product states that a two-tablespoon serving contains 200 calories — 16 grams of fat, 85 grams of sodium and only two grams of sugar; Whole Foods’s version also contains 200 calories (but one less skinny-pinching gram of fat), 10 grams of sodium and three grams of sugar. Most important, a serving of each contains eight grams of protein.
So, have I eaten a balanced lunch? To my mid-menopausal “body-shifting” mind, yes. Then again, there is a good chance that I shall tackle the Winn Dixie jar before the end of the evening, most likely just as I’m sitting down to watch the eleven o’clock news. And not as a transparent paste. Instead, I’ll willfully — or will it be gleefully — gouge out the peanut chunks with the tines of a fork before I scrape the sides until the level of the jar is once again even. Finally, I’ll ruefully stare at the dwindling contents and wish I’d bought half a dozen jars at the Miami store before I squirrel this one back in a corner of my cupboard.
I shall then sleepily — or, aw, shucks! — guiltily contemplate the calories I just ingested: two to four hundred, perhaps? But they’re nutritious peanuts, right? I’m not going to step on the scale and have gained five pounds? At least not from the peanut butter, I delude myself over and over again.
These same thoughts about eating peanut butter have crossed my mind for at least 40 years. Not, however, when I was a little girl, recently arrived from Cuba. That’s when my love of peanut butter began. I may not remember going through the Cuban refugee processing center in downtown Miami, but I have a vague recollection of my parents returning to our tenement apartment with provisions.
Recently, I decided to check out those childhood memories. I searched “peanut butter distributed to Cuban refugees 1960s” and several entries came up. An article titled “Survival in the Oil Patch” caught my eye. It features the story of a young Cuban boy, Silverio, “Sil” Bosch with whom I appear to have much in common. His family arrived in the United States just more than five months after mine.
I was delighted to find that Sil and I have another thing in common. Yes, peanut butter. The author describes Sil’s adjustment to the United States, but my eyes became big as saucers when I read the following:
America welcomed Sil’s family and helped with some clothes and food. He remembers getting a brand new jacket at the Cuban refugee processing center, and from time to time they received some surplus foods that were left over from stocking civil defense shelters. Amongst the food he remembers eating were powdered eggs and peanut butter. Neither food was especially tasty but it sure helped with the food budget and also kept the three Bosch teenagers’ bellies full.
Peanut butter kept this little Cuban girl’s belly full, too.
So did powdered eggs. But that’s a different story.
— Georgina Marrero
Georgina Marrero is a freelance writer/researcher who now lives in D.C.