For many years in the states, I used to teach pre-K for many years along with directing and supervising preschools (although my last job involved teaching parenting classes and counseling preschool teachers with challenging behaviors). I also loved to sing and was a member of a professional chorus (Placer Pops Chorale) before moving to Panama. With that said, my memory is full of songs I learned in the past, many of which I sung as a young child with my mother and as an adult with my 2-5 year old students. One of them which comes to memory is “Peanut….Peanut Butter”, a song about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I have always love peanut butter and still occasionally crave for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or peanut butter and crackers. My favorite used to be Crunchy Skippy Peanut Butter. But in recent years after taking a few nutrition classes to loose weight and eat healthier, I learned Skippy Peanut Butter and most other brands in the market are full of sugar and salt. Pre-made jarred natural peanut butter still has added salt and oil. In California a few grocery stores offered grinders to make fresh peanut butter. They placed a large grinder next to a bin of organic shelled peanuts. You could scoop out the peanuts and pour into the grinder and out would come pure peanut butter into a container, also provided. The cost was slightly more, but the peanut butter is much better for you. I got used to the flavor of natural unsweetened, unsalted peanut butter, and Skippy did not taste that good anymore.
So now we move to Panama; no peanut grinders next to bins of peanuts in the markets. Only pre-made jarred branded peanut butter. We had brought with us our Blentex blender (similar to a Vitamix, but less costly), so I figured I could grind peanuts and make natural peanut butter with the blender. But at first we had a hard time finding peanuts with no added salt. We looked everywhere. Then someone told us about a Chinese store in Chitre that offered peanuts. They had a whole row of bags of shelled peanuts from China. We bought a few, but when I opened the shell, the peanuts were all smaller than a dried pea. It would take lots of time and too much effort to shell enough peanuts to make a little peanut butter. Once we also bought a large jar of lightly salted cocktail peanuts at PriceSmart, but it didn’t taste the same when I grinded a little. So we just ate the rest of them out of the jar. We finally found 1 lb. bags of unsalted regular-size peanuts in the shell at Rey market in Chitre and eventually sold at Super Carne in Las Tablas., and then I sometimes found them in Central Super market in Pedasí. So I bought and shelled 2 bags of peanuts which would make about 8 oz. of peanut butter. Finally I had natural good-flavored peanut butter, but it took a couple of hours just to shell all those peanuts. Peanut butter did not get made often unless I was in the mood to shell a few pounds, but at least now and then I could satisfy my craving.
A few weeks ago, Mikkel came back from Super Central and told me that he saw jars of Planters unsalted dry-roasted peanuts. I walked over soon after and, to my surprise, there were several jars. After checking the ingredients – peanuts, I bought one 16 oz. jar; brought it home; poured it into the blender and 2 minutes later I had 15 oz. of pure delicious natural peanut butter. With that, I drove back over to Super Central and bought up the remaining 5 jars. In Panama, if you find something you want or have been looking for, you buy it then because it may not be there when you go back even a few hours later. So now I have natural peanut butter when I want; again, not all the time, so this will last for a while. I just have to pour another jar of peanuts into the blender when the peanut butter is eaten up. Eventually those six jars will be gone, but if I find more, I will buy them even if I don’t need them right away.
It amazes me that I am writing a blog posting about peanut butter, a commodity that was taken for granted in the states for its availability. But here in Panama, we have learned to adjust, do without, improvise, be creative, and appreciate the little things in life. This is a blessing, perhaps in disguise. It helps keep our brain functions going including memory and problem-solving. We have learned to be continually grateful for all that God has blessed us with-good health, a beautiful place to live, friends, family, each other, even food. Mikkel has been baking bread as well since we have been unable to find a decent tasting and healthy loaf of bread, even at the panaderias. Again in the US there are many choices of whole grain bread in the grocery stores. Finding whole wheat, rye, and other types of flour instead of plain white bleached flour has been a challenge here. We have stocked up on Pillsbury bread flour we found at Rey in Chitre and small bags of whole wheat and rye flour at a Reba Smith Express market when we stopped by in Coronado on our way home from Panama. Again we buy and stock up when we find something we have been looking for.
Now if we could only find ice cream again, but that’s another story. Oh look! The blender has a button labeled “ice cream”. Another problem possibly solved. Looking for the Blentex instruction manual as I finish this blog.