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Something Different: Haiti and the History of Peanut Butter

May 5, 2010

I came by some interesting information by way of a friend named Jon Krampner who is writing: “Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food.”  Haiti has a place in Jon’s book, two places really… although very brief it is quite important.  There have been lots of interesting information coming up as Jon works on this book and shares some tidbits about Haiti and peanut butter history.  This piece of info is about peanut butter history in Haiti and the link to Africa.

The question was about the connection between peanut butter making in Haiti and Africa:

Answer is by Dr. Marc Prou, Associate Professor and Chair, Africana Studies Department, University of Massachusetts Boston: I have consulted with a couple scholars who studied rural customs informed me that the practice of using a mortar and pestle is quite an old one. However, in Haiti, both rural and urban dwellers have been using for quite a long time the electric or manual grinder ( moulin électrique or Moulin à bras) to grind the peanut after being roasted and peeled. I have no exact date when this old practice of using mortar and pestle ended. Obviously, it must be over half of a century. It was not a practice during my lifetime (over 55 years). Growing up in Haiti living both in rural and urban areas, I did not witness it. Even in the most remote rural towns, people used the manual grinder where electricity was not available. In the urban area, an electrical grinder (moulin electrique) was used. I remember my own family used to assign me the task of cleaning up the grinder, which was a chore that all my siblings wanted to do, so we could scrap the left over peanut butter from the grinder. One may think that it was perhaps before the hand grinder (moulin à bras) was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century during the U.S occupation (1915-34), that the mortar and pestle was being used. Of course, in terms of cultural continuity, I have observed during my travel in West Africa (Nigeria, Benin,) many similarities between Haitian customs and West African customs. I would not rule out that the peanut one as a possibility.

Anyone interested please leave a comment so that I can put you in touch with the author.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jon Krampner permalink
    May 6, 2010 5:09 am

    Thanks for posting this, Regine. This is the first time I’ve shared the book’s title with anyone in a position to put it on the internet; now it’s out in the world.

    And I’m still looking forward to that jar of peanut butter you promised to bring back for me 🙂

  2. May 6, 2010 11:52 am

    Definitely remember peanut butter being made with a manual grinder in my home.

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