One part hard science, one part metaphysics, and a heaping spoonful of parasnackology; it was a grueling process, but one I felt necessary to maintain the purity of the Snacktaku product.
And then the Planters marketing people offered to send me peanut butter.
Now before everyone starts shouting "Sell-Out!" (which really is fine, just don't type it into a box at the bottom of the page and hit "Submit"), accepting such an offer was not an easy decision to make. Having honed and perfected my selection method over the course of two decades (mostly concentrated in the very last bit, with lots of napping leading up to), setting it aside would be akin to setting aside a portion of my soul. I meditated. I consulted the clergy. I clipped my fingernails (possibly unrelated). I walked the world in search of answers.
In the end it was the convincing argument of the marketing representative that won me over.
"Wanted to see if either of the products I am working on might be of interest for Kotaku's "Snacktaku" section". How could I argue with that?
I've already covered the history of peanut butter proper in the landmark Snacktaku review, Celery with Peanut Butter, so there really isn't any reason to go over it again; everybody already knows where it came from, and what it's all about.
In fact, that's one of the main problems with peanut butter. Once a magical creation from an ancient civilization that practiced ritualistic human sacrifice, now it's just peanut butter. It's thick. It's brown. It's boring.
Screw that says Planters, a company founded in 1906 by Italian immigrant Amedeo Obici, a peddler famous for selling peanuts out of a horse cart. Peanut Butter can bemore than that. Peanut Butter can go beyond the brown paper school lunch. Peanut Butter can be for adults — adventurous adults.
Here's the company line:
PLANTERS NUT●rition peanut butter is the first national brand to take peanut butter to a whole new level for adults with the addition of wholesome ingredients like bananas, granola, cranberries, raisins, cinnamon and nuts. It's a daring peanut butter that will tap into your adventurous side.
I only see two problems with that paragraph.
First, the terms 'peanut butter' and 'adventurous' appearing in the same sentence. Peanut butter is not merely un-adventurous — it's the antithesis of adventure. Imagine you're swinging on a vine across a pit filled with poisonous snakes, an attractive, half-naked man and / or woman under your arm, spears and arrows thrown by politically incorrect native tribesmen incredulously missing you by inches. You and your damsel (or dansel) in distress land on the other side of the yawning crevasse, tumbling along the jungle floor and landing in a breathlessly sexy heap. You've still got to restore the fist-sized ruby to the eye of the stature of the fire god to prevent the explosive volcanic eruption, but there's time for a snack. You pull a peanut butter sandwich out of your pack, hand half to your budding romantic interest, and take a big bite.
Suddenly it's naptime. Sure, your hunger is sated, but there's just no way to continue building dramatic (and sexual) tension with a mouth full of nut butter. You can't deliver witty dialogue while scraping peanut-oil residue off the roof of your mouth with your tongue, and forget making-out with your incredibly good-looking, ridiculously grateful, leopard fur-wearing former human sacrifice-to-be; not when their mouth tastes like that.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peanut Butter would have been — well, it would have been amazing, but for purely ironic reasons.
And then there's the idea of an adult peanut butter, which brings to mind peanut butter used in adult situations, which ultimately leads to unfortunate Google image searches and the loss of any excitement that your mind had managed to trick your body into feeling.
Having said all of this I have to admit, the three flavors of Planters NUT-rition I sampled did manage to tap into my adventurous side, if you can call eating the better part of three 12-ounce jars of peanut butter with my fingers adventure (you can, I approve).
I realize that peanut butter is meant to be spread, not dolloped in heaping mounds atop a piece of wheat bread like the most horrible chicken salad ever, but I wanted to capture the sublime differences between the three NUT-rition products: Banana Granola Nut, Berry Nut and Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut.
If it makes you feel better, I had to eat this piece of bread once the photo shoot was over.
By packing its peanut butter with a variety of exotic extras (like chopped peanuts), Planters has created a trio of nut butters with the consistency of a very creamy cookie dough. The official fact sheet for the product mentions that NUT-rition can be used in a variety of recipes. I'd imagine any one of these would make for a damn fine peanut butter cookie.
The peanut butter component of Planters NUT-rition is as fine a peanut butter as you can get without crushing your own nuts, and the marketing team can quote me on that – I dare them.
Setting aside the peanut butter itself, we're left with the added components, the elements that separate these three products from regular, every day, non-sexual creamy spread. Right off the bat we can strike one of these additions from consideration. All three varieties feature nuts, and in all three varieties the nuts in question are peanuts. Putting peanuts in peanut butter is not revolutionary.
Neither, for that matter, is adding bananas, raisins or granola, but those varieties are normally only found in health food stores or farmers' markets. NUT-rition is the first mixed peanut butter product of its kind from a mostly-trusted national brand. Good for them.
Let's take em out, one-by-one.
Banana Granola Nut
I am a huge fan of mixing peanut butter with bananas, but when I think PB&B I'm thinking thick, freshly cut banana discs. That's not what I am getting here. I am getting the vague hint of banana, enough to pique my interest but not enough to satiate the ensuing craving for the tarantula-attracting fruit.
By featuring the essence of banana without the texture of banana the slightly acrid after taste of the fruit comes shining through. There are chemicals in bananas that human beings were not meant to taste. Here I am tasting them.
The odd banana taste is cut somewhat by the delightful crunch of granola. I am a huge proponent of putting granola on everything edible, yet it had never occurred to me to combine it with peanut butter. This is what every jar of crunchy peanut butter should be like. I'm not sure I can go back to regular nut butter after experiencing this glorious crunch.
Despite the revelation, this is probably my least favorite of the three varieties. It was my wife's favorite, incidentally, which is why she's a shift lead at Starbucks and not a universally adored snackologist.
You know what dried cranberries taste like when surrounded by a viscous mass of ground and chopped peanuts? Absolutely nothing.
The Berry Nut NUT-rition blend is a showcase for texture rather than flavor. It's peanut butter with chewy bits, which is fine as long as you're aware of what the chewy bits are. If you dipped into a jar of regular peanut butter and bit into something with the texture of a dried cranberry you'd be terrified. Warned ahead of time I was merely mildly bemused.
If you want the cranberry flavor you can suck all the peanut butter away, leaving only the cranberries in your mouth, but if that's the tactic you resort to you might as well just buy a bag of Craisins and be done with it.
Not a bad experience, all in all. I'd probably buy this if marketing people weren't shipping it directly to my door.
Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut
I am convinced that the entire NUT-rition line of products was just an excuse to release this particular mix of flavors and textures into the wild. They should have called it Planters Fucking Amazing Cinnamon Raisin Granola Peanut Butter, removing the redundant ‘nut' and adding an expletive that, now that I think about it, would probably offend the people at Wal-Mart. I don't care, which is why I'm not in marketing.
This one has it all: The crunch of the granola; the chewy texture of raisins; the redundanuts; and a delicious dose of the magical pixie dust we call cinnamon.
Of all the varieties, this is the most sensually divergent from the base product. It does not smell like peanut butter. With those dark brown speckles it doesn't quite look like peanut butter. And the taste? It's like peanut butter mixed with sex and adventure. It's the whole reason they wrote that silly description I posted somewhere back in the beginning of this long, rambling mess.
(Reviewer's Note: All three varieties were primarily tested on the fingers of this reviewer, with a round of photo-friendly bread towards the end. Your own fingers might taste different, depending on where they've been recently. Think before you finger the nut butter, people.)
Humanity can go no further with plain peanut butter. Mashing together the product of peanut bushes isn't a procedure open to interpretation; no matter what you crush them with the end result is ultimately the same: the fatty, protein-rich foundation upon which great things are built.
As a pure food product, peanut butter is boring. Up until now the only way for peanut butter to excel was as an additive. Peanut cookies, Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch, peanut butter and barley soup; these are all excellent examples of peanut butter as ingredient.
We've spent the past few decades adding peanut butter to things. Now it's time to add things to peanut butter. All of the things.
Planters NUT-rition could be the beginning of a peanut butter revolution, at least in the confines of my pantry. Even with the banana science taste of my least favorite variety, the entire line is worthy of a taste, with the Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut worthy of being slowly introduced into your sex life (very slowly).
I look forward to seeing what other varieties arise from this humble beginning. Will other companies rise to the challenge? Is this the opening salvo in what will one day be known as the War of NUT-rition?
I sure hope so; I spent an hour thinking that up.