There’s no denying that Americans love their peanut butter.
The U.S. turned to peanut butter as a meal staple during the height of World War I and hasn’t turned its back on the spread since then. In honor of National Peanut Butter Day, Fox News Digital takes a look at the groundnut through a historical lens.
Peanut butter caught the attention of creative home chefs who made the effort to conserve other essential food groups during the 1910s, according to Lora Vogt – curator of education and interpretation at the National WWI Museum & Memorial.
“As home cooks were looking to find meat, bread and fat replacements – peanut butter was an easily accessible and flexible wartime ingredient,” Vogt told Fox News Digital. “Peanut butter recipes found their way into cookbooks published during the war era and – the tastiest ones – stayed.”
Vogt continued, “Recipes for breads, soups, cookies, fudge, loaves – even peanut butter stuffed onions found their way into home kitchens. Generations later some of those items remain on the 21st century American plates – or at least deserve a second look to spread a little historic creativity in the kitchen.”
Letters displayed in the National WWI Museum’s online database show that peanut butter became a feasible butter replacement.
In one letter, Corporal Thomas R. Shook wrote the following message to his parents in 1917: “Several of the boys here buy peanut butter at the store to take the place of butter which we only get for breakfast and then that’s just a small cube.”
A cookbook excerpt the museum shared with Fox from “Win the War in the Kitchen” reveals that peanut butter soup and peanut loaf were popular wartime recipes among other nut-based concoctions.
“Many Americans increased their use – or encountered for the first time – [what is now] the U.S. dietary staple of peanut butter during WWI,” Vogt said. “Soldiers could buy the product in stores on bases, had cans of the product sent to them in care packages from home and were fed the product from military kitchens.”
She added, “[Since peanut butter is] high in protein and in fats, it was suggested as a replacement both for meat and butter.”
If you’re curious to try a peanut butter soup or peanut loaf recipe that was popular during World War I, here’s how you can make the dishes, which are listed on a “Save Necessities – Use Alternatives” page in the 1918 “Win the War in the Kitchen” cookbook.
Peanut Butter Soup Recipe Used During WWI
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup boiling water (½ cup should be made from outer stalk celery)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon potato starch
- 1 teaspoon oleomargarine
- Blend one cup of peanut butter and one cup of milk together.
- Heat the remaining two cups of milk separately in a double boiler.
- Add the potato starch and fat creamed together in boiling water. Cook until the water appears clear and pour the mixture in with the hot milk.
- Add the blended peanut butter and seasoning.
- Mill the contents with a Dover eggbeater.
- Strain and serve soup while hot.
Peanut Loaf Recipe Used During WWI
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs (toasted)
- ¾ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup cooked rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Speck pepper
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Combine the ingredients in a bowl.
- Bake in a loaf pan for 30 minutes. Most loaf breads can be baked around 350° F, according to the food blog Knead Rise Bake. To figure out if a loaf is cooked, insert and remove a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, the loaf is fully baked.
- Let the loaf cool and remove it from the pan.
- Serve the peanut loaf with tomato sauce or ketchup.
To learn more about World War I recipes from the ‘Win the Ware in the Kitchen’ cookbook, visit the National WWI Museum & Memorial’s online exhibit – War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines.