Peanut Butter

I am the salt king of San Francisco. I shop for the sourest grapefruit so I can salt it; I eat cantaloupe with salt and pepper; I have made concerned friends wince as they saw me wielding the salt shaker at dinner. And yet, I like my peanut butter unsalted. So naturally, my favorite peanut butter, Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned, is available in San Francisco only salted. As a compromise, I have taken to cutting my salted Laura Scudder’s with the unsalted Adams 100% Natural. I’m sure this is causing many of you to wonder how it is possible that a gourmet as discriminating as myself is able to stomach a peanut butter other than Laura Scudder’s, even when mixed half and half with the good stuff.

Well actually, I had kind of wondered about this myself. How could it be, I thought, that Adams’ tastes just as good as Laura Scudder’s? Could I have somehow failed to include Adams when I was doing my extensive comparison tastings a few years ago?

And then, this morning, it came to me. As I was preparing to mix a couple of jars, I noticed that both Laura and Mrs. Adams were members of the J. M. Smucker team – the Orrville, Ohio, Smuckers. They had both joined the Smuckers upon learning of the cost reductions they could enjoy if they used the same jars and just paid for separate paper labels to distinguish their products. Well of course, quantity discounts for all that glassware.

In the old days, truckers with their loads of freshly harvested peanuts headed toward Orrville until they reached the outskirts of town, where the road forked and there was a big sign with an arrow pointing left for Mrs. Adams and right for Laura Scudder. The guys knew which fork to take.

Later, Laura and the Adamses moved their plants to new locations side by side on the Interstate loop around town and the truckers went around to the back of the appropriate building to unload, depending on whether they were carrying the 100% Natural or the Old Fashioned.

Then, back in the eighties, the accountants figured out that Laura and the Adamses could save a bundle by consolidating their receiving docks and separating the 100% Naturals from the Old Fashioneds in house.

In the nineties, an employee dropped a note in the Suggestions box that had far-reaching consequences. A radical proposal, actually, but one which was implemented after it was understood that the savings it offered could be utilized to amplify the Executive Bonus Program.

The implementation was straightforward. The wall between the two buildings was knocked out and the processing lines were combined, thus creating a huge pile of extra parts which were sold when the scrap metal market was at its peak. With only one processing line, the companies were able to achieve significant cost reductions by out-processing many of the processors, including the suggester, who had not thought through all the consequences and had had other expectations for his reward.

So now, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the line processes the 100% Natural peanuts and the Adams label is pasted onto the jars. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, it’s Old Fashioned time, and the Laura Scudder labels are used. The entire processing line is steam cleaned at the end of each day to prevent any possible cross contamination.

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