New York - Peanut butter is an essential item in any US kitchen cupboard, but if want to see enjoyment of this ultra-American spread taken to extremes, a New York outlet is the place to stock up.
The Peanut Butter & Co. sandwich shop is a haven for those who cannot live by bread alone - like Alona Kiss from Florida.
“Eating a slice of toasted bread with peanut butter and jelly (jam) transports me straight back to childhood,” said the 17-year-old. “The taste is simply divine.”
Alona and her pal Serena are on vacation in New York and naturally they make a beeline for the eatery in trendy Greenwich Village.
The menu contains some odd-sounding sandwiches like “Pregnant Lady” (peanut butter with slices of gherkin) and “The Elvis” which adds banana, honey and bacon to the peanut butter, which is made by crushing peanuts, or groundnuts.
What sounds like an acquired taste sells like hot cakes, according to proprietor Lee Zalben. Actually, it's his bestseller.
Lee, 39, set up the shop in 1988, decorated it with nostalgic peanut butter ads and empty jars of the stuff on shelves.
Not so typical customers are Veruschka Bordoni and her boyfriend Enrico Chionna who are studying the menu after being piloted here by their guidebook.
They opt for two vanilla milkshakes, the “White Chocolate Wonderful” (peanut butter with white chocolate and apricot jam and grated almonds) and the “Jerry Seinfeld Comedy Special”, a toasted roll with peanut butter, cinnamon and honey named after a celebrated US comedian.
“Peanut butter is hard to find on sale in Italy but I always was a fan,” says the 21-year-old from Milan. For Enrico the bite into a slab of peanut butter is his first-ever taste of the creme.
Owner Lee is a long-time fan of peanut butter and he emphasises that generations of school-kids have regarded it as the ideal snack.
The idea of turning his passion into cash occurred to him during his student days. He believes that the American love affair with peanut butter is also a throwback to darker economic times when the spread was a cheap source of protein and sustenance.
According to the US peanut growers' association, Americans consume an average of 3 kilograms of peanut butter per head every year.
Supermarkets offer the traditional creamy sort or a crunchy variety with tiny pieces of nut suspended in the paste.
Peanut butter is an element in many US recipes and Lee sells a range of books with tasty peanut butter creations and naturally a wide selection of sandwich spread varieties.
Although he has been eating the stuff for years, Zalben never tires of peanut butter.
“I've always got an opened jar in the cupboard and I eat it daily,” he said. - Sapa-dpa