Who Invented Peanut Butter?

Peggy Whitman on the International Space StationWho invented peanut butter? During the year that NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson spent aboard the International Space Station, she noticed something unusual: her taste in food changed. “My favorite space food was peanut butter,” she said. “I'm not a big fan of it on the ground, but couldn't get enough of it in space."

The reason? Weightlessness changes an astronaut’s taste buds, so food tastes different and usually blander. Thus, space explorers prefer spicier foods, tart beverages and strong seasonings such as salsa. Even foods that a person might not like on Earth can taste better in space.

Who invented peanut butter

Fortunately for peanut growers, most people don’t have to go into space to appreciate this nutritious food. The ancient Aztecs and Incas invented peanut butter by roasting the nuts and mashing them into a paste. The paste was hard to spread and had a somewhat bitter taste, however. It was not until later when vegetable oil was added and modern mixing machines were invented, that peanut butter got its smooth texture.

Who in vented peanut butter - Aztecs

The ancient Aztecs and Incas are believed to be the ones who invented peanut butter long before modern peanut butter became popular.

Some people say that George Washington Carver invented modern peanut butter during the late 1800’s. A slave turned businessman, Carver helped to popularize the growing peanuts in the American South and also published recipes that included peanut butter. Others dispute this claim.

George washington carver Who invented Peanut Butter

Some people say that it was George Washington Carver (above) who invented peanut butter, but Marcellus Gilmore Edson was the first person to patent modern peanut butter in 1884.

A Canadian inventor, Marcellus Gilmore Edson, was the first person to patent peanut butter in 1884. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg – of Kellogg’s breakfast cereal fame – received a patent for a "process of preparing nut meal" that made use of peanuts in 1897.

Peanut butter became increasingly popular throughout the 20th century. It took a giant leap into space on May 24, 1962, when Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter roared into space aboard Aurora 7. Carpenter carried small food cubes that had been developed by the Pillsbury Company’s chief food technologist, Howard Bauman. These were the first solid foods eaten by an American astronaut in space.

Space Food Sticks TV Commercial

Pillsbury later developed these food cubes into a product called Space Food Sticks. An early forerunner of today’s energy bars, the food sticks came in peanut butter and other flavors. A version of the snack food was sent aloft in 1972 with Skylab 3 astronauts Gerald Carr, Ed Gibson and William Pogue.

As the Apollo program wound down, the popularity of Space Food Sticks declined. By the late 1980s, the product had disappeared from American grocery shelves, although it remained in continuous production in Australia. In fact, they are the favorite snack of Olympic gold medal swimmer Ian Thorpe.

In 2000, Retrofuture Products owner Eric Lefcowitz launched his website, Retrofuture.com, and featured an article about the classic food. The article generated enormous interest among people who fondly remembered the energy bar from their youth.

Lefcowitz brought back Space Food Sticks in 2006 with two flavors, peanut butter and chocolate. Thus, the connection between the tiny peanut and America’s space program was revived. Today, you can purchase Space Food Sticks at places such as the Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and the Adler Planetarium.  There are also places online to purchase these retrofoods.

Links for "Who Invented Peanut Butter?"

The Space Food Sticks Preservation Society

NASA space food


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