06 May, 2009

Skippy Vs. Jif: A Tawdry Tale

America has had it's debates over the years, it's share of very public divides.

Do we or do we not secede from the Union?
Do we or do we not get involved in WW2?
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Pepsi or Coke?
Rachel or Monica?

But. I present you now with a controversy of cosmic import. I lay before you one of the most hotly debated issues in America:

Jif or Skippy?

I know, I know. One sounds like a bathroom "cream cleaner", the other like a benevolent fictional marsupial, but it is not the end of the dilemmas. Crucially, and perhaps even more importantly,

Smooth or Crunchy?

That's right. This is about peanut butter.
(Discuss...)


Now there is Reduced Fat Jif, Skippy Super chunky, Natural Skippy (with "no need to stir" which is a categorical LIE let me tell you)... the choices may never end. Will the debate only be made more heated and vehement? Will Skippy and Jif continue to divide our nation, continue to rip apart families by now offering MORE choices?! MORE opportunities for us to deviate from the simplest of all foods?!

Has there ever been an issue more contentious? Has there ever been a food so fiercely disputed? ... What was that?! ... I'm sorry, did you just say YOU DON'T KNOW?! Well, LISTEN! This is controversial food talk people, dust off your Debate Team jackets and break open your accordian files, spruce up your hand-me-down briefcases filled with sources and o-rings and note-cards and get ready to kick some peanut buttery ass because this is serious stuff. Don't take this lightly. That's right. Take it like a man...

Some of you out there might think that the two brands both have their virtues. That they are both synthetic vats of trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. That they are, frankly, extremely similar in most ways. And you might be correct.

But. Skippy vs. Jif is a true dilemma, people! Families have been torn apart, friendships ended, and states gone to battle over this crucial issue (in fact, speculation that the civil war was on the verge of re-ignition in the late 1970's due to a peanut butter misunderstanding between visiting relatives in Georgia is still yet to be determined).

So. Let's make a list shall we?

Skippy's virtues:
- Creamier texture,
- Great spread-a-bility (even in "Crunchy" PB)
- Melts to almost liquid on toast (which is dreeeeeeamy), thus "mixable" with jams/jellys
- Very light and (i.e., not too "heavy" in the savoury sense)
- Whimsical blue lid

Jif's virtues:
- Terriffic peanut(-ier) taste
- Great "biting" texture perfect for "off-the-spoon" consumption
- Sliiiiiightly sweeter (especially their Reduced Fat Jif, which has extra sweeteners in it)
- More and larger peanut pieces (in "Crunchy" PB)
- Whimsical red lid

Tawdry Points...

Jif takes the time to print a label that blantently plays upon one's ignorance. A few years ago the label listed this: "Made with no partially hydrogenated oils!" Intrigued, since Jif is a lowest-common-denominator PB that has always contained three lousy ingredients: refines salt, refined sugar and hydrogenated fat, one thinks to themselves, "How exciting! Jif got rid of the rapeseed oil! It will be less rancid and toxic and solid—both in the can and in my blood stream! Hurrah!"

Then one picks up the product and reads the label and it says, “Contains less than 2 percent fully hydrogenated oils (rapeseed).” Unbelievable. They’re bragging that they don’t have partially hydrogenated fats, because they have fully hydrogenated fats! I guess they’re hoping the "choosy moms" who buy the peanut butter are dumb enough not to investigate.

So. Jif. Liars.... Whatever.

But. BUT... no one, NO ONE I TELL YOU, can deny the fact that as far as stories go, Skippy's conception wins it with a tale of (ongoing!) seven-decade-long lawsuits, a comic strip, and an insane asylum. I mean.... please. That is amazing...

Via Wikipedia:

“Skippy” was first used as a trademark for peanut butter by the Rosefield Packing Co., Ltd., of Alameda, California, in 1933. Percy Crosby, creator of the “Skippy” comic strip, had the trademark invalidated in 1934, but Rosefield persisted after Crosby was committed to an insane asylum, and its successor companies, most recently Unilever, have been granted rights to the trademark over the objection of Crosby’s heirs. There has been much litigation on this point over the decades, some of which remains in progress.


Oh. WOW.
and, from the Associated Press:

Monday, April 5, 2004; 4:59 PM

ANNANDALE, Va. - For nearly 40 years Joan Crosby Tibbetts has waged a one-woman campaign against the makers of Skippy peanut butter, claiming the name was stolen from her father’s popular Depression-era comic strip. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately refused to hear her suit against Skippy’s manufacturer, a division of the multinational conglomerate Unilever. But Tibbetts, 71, said she’ll continue her battle in the court of public opinion.

“This case involves a very important principle … ‘Thou shalt not steal,’” Tibbetts said Monday. “If this case is allowed to disappear and they succeed in shutting me up, who has won? These big corporations that believe they can just wear others down.”

Tibbetts’ crusade began in 1965 when the state of New York tasked her with administering her father Percy Crosby’s estate. She had not seen her father since 1939, when Crosby’s wife divorced him and took the children. Crosby died in December 1964, after spending the last 18 years of his life in a mental hospital, his cartoon character by then largely forgotten…

Her research led her to the conclusion that the trademark for Skippy peanut butter had been improperly obtained by the Rosefield Packing Co. She has waged her campaign ever since, a few episodes of success interspersed with endless legal wrangling and frustration.

She acknowledges crusade’s toll - financially, emotionally and physically. She also has been subject to nasty e-mail comments, including one writer who hoped she drowns in a giant vat of peanut butter.


So, there you have it people, what shall it be? The Red Lid, or The Blue? I will admit here and now, that I am a connoisseur, an aesthete, if you will, of both brands, grabbing "American" peanut butter where I can and when with glee in my heart and a spring in my step (not entirely unlike a certain superheroic kangaroo...)

Now.
Some might say that the crunchy/smooth debate is a matter of not only preference, but a matter of the specific use of PB. For me, I am of the latter party. Celery? It has to be crunchy. Sandwich? Creamy (with raspberry jam). Cookies? Creamy. Off the spoon? Crunchy in summer, creamy in winter. But all of that, it must be understood, is just me. This is something that must be decided within yourself, it is like choosing a religion, it has to be a spiritual calling of sorts... and I understand that some people are die-hard creamy/crunchy fans too-the-DEATH... and while naturally I respect your (possibly radical) adherence to your party of choice, I reserve the right to play, (as they say), for both teams... (hm...)

What does this say about The Silber? Perhaps simply, that she loves her peanut butter, and appreciates it in all it's forms and brands-- like fine cheeses or wines, The Silber appreciates the subtle complexities each brand and style of peanut butter can offer. She makes a judgment about the moment at hand, then utlises an appropraite sampling catered to that moment. She is not a creature of indecision or maliable loyalties, The Silber is a gastronome in the world of the pulverised peanut... an epicure... a specialist... a buff...

One might wonder why in this time of credit crunching, real-estate collapsing, apocalyptic economic crisis, swine flu, global warming and all around pessimism, just why one should take the time to ponder the intricacies of such a subject.

I riposte with this: isn't it refreshing to dwell on the infintesimal details of peanut butter selection rather than dwelling on all the doom and gloom?

Answer: Yes.

So. Just so I don’t leave you without a peanut-y taste in your mouth, here is a (sliiiiightly sexist) Skippy peanut butter television commercial from the 1950’s. Don't let it stick to the roof of your mouth.

Enjoy.



Oh! And! Have you been here? (My friend had this to say: "I had their daily special, The Johnny Appleseed: bagel, freshly-chopped apple, peanut butter, and optional cream cheese. A bagel so life-enhancing it fueled a whole day’s working around Manhattan – but that is NOTHING to the glory of Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s new peanut butter brownie: chocolate brownie simply oozing with peanut butter AND peanuts! Genius!")

11 comments:

  1. I LOVE PEANUT BUTTER. And I loved this post. I'm a crunchy Skippy peanut butter person myself. yum...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I adore this post as I'm also peanut butter obsessed. I think I first tasted Skippy in the States when I was seven and never looked back, even though it isn't always easy to find over here. It's just so beautifully creamy. I'm currently in the provinces making do with Sunpat (which is OK, but it can't really compare), but will make sure that my mother brings me some Skippy from the London Waitrose for my birthday!

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  3. I must disagree with one point-The skippy natural smooth does not in fact require stirring (on this side of the Atlantic) whereas the Jif natural smooth definitely does need stirring...
    My personal preference is the Skippy smooth natural...the jif is just too sweet for me :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Skippy is very pleasant indeed"

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  5. This is an amazing post...

    My family usually has both in the cupboard, so as to use the one appropriate for the moment. :)

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  6. I LOVE peanut butter. Jif and Skippy are both excellent, despite the added sugar. Well, that's what makes them good. But now that I'm an adult, I eat Smart Balance Crunchy. Crunchy and smooth both have their places.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. :)

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  7. Skippy super crunch all the way.

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  8. I used to make my own peanut butter, but it got to be a chore. I have since used Skippy Super Chunk exclusively. One of Elvis' favorite sandwiches was peanut butter and marshmallow cream. They called it a "fluffer-nutter." I'll send you some more marshmallows and you can try if for yourself. Love & kisses, Arleney (your mom's high school chum.)

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  9. Overwhelmingly passionate responses from you all! Much appreciated. I find it fascinating how sensitive everyone is about the PB debate. One would think we were discussing religion and politics... perhaps WE ARE...

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  10. AnonymousMay 11, 2009

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2247666&id=545942104&ref=mf

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  11. Just a heads up, Marks and Spencer have started doing peanut butter- I've only tried the smooth so far, but for a British brand, I prefer the texture to Sunpat. It's only 99p at the moment, so it's worth a try!

    ReplyDelete

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