Tuesday, March 17, 2009
With all the flap about peanut butter going on here, I thought it would be fun to see a real community peanut butter factory, Guyana style. The Guyanan climate is beautifully suited to cultivation of the peanut, which after all was brought over from Africa, and we’ve seen the congruencies between Guyana and Africa. I think that peanut plants must be gluttons for punishment, standing out in the Guyanan heat all day.
Here’s the factory. It’s modest, but as clean as an open-air peanut butter factory can be. Is it bug or rodent-proof? No. Nothing in Guyana really seems to be. But it’s a tight ship, and we were all given paper berets to wear, so I’m pretty sure the peanut butter has no Zick hair in it. Definitely cleaner than the Peanut Corporation of America.
Locally grown peanuts are brought in burlap sacks to this facility, where they are put in the roaster, an oil drum that’s slowly rotated over a gas flame while the peanuts inside spin and cook evenly. You might want to admire the beautifully muscled arms of the two women who work in the peanut factory at this point, because they have to turn the thing for a couple of hours for each batch of peanuts to get cooked.
This is the sheller, which separates nut from shell. I think there might be a fan at some point, which blows shell bits off the nuts.
All the peanuts are sent through this little grinder, yielding the most wonderful all-natural hand-made peanut butter. We were given little samples, but I felt like digging my hand into the joint compound bucket and sticking it in my mouth. I wuz hongry, and it were good.
It was humbling to see this operation, the pride and care that goes into every batch, and to think that these two women provide all the labor, every step along the way, to make Rupununi Golden Peanut Butter.
I tried to imagine the FDA allowing such an operation in the States and couldn't. There would be so many regulatory roadblocks thrown in the way that peanut-based food production would be left soley to the big outfits, which, we're assured, handle our food in a much cleaner, safer way. We've seen how well that works, again and again and again. Give me my Farmer's Market, the armpower of two barefoot women, and Rupununi Golden Peanut Butter over the mass produced stuff, any day.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! My Irish half (County Tyrone) came out on a quiet, dark bus in Honduras. We had two hours left of a six-hour bus ride ahead of us, and it was getting dark fast. Everyone was exhausted and just wanted to get some dinner and go to bed. Corey said, "Maybe it's time to strike up a chorus of '99 Bottles." I said, "I've got a better idea," and rummaged around in my suitcase for my nickel-plated Oak pennywhistle. I played for two solid hours without repeating a tune, dredging up music from more than thirty years of picking up Irish tunes. I've forgotten the names of many of them, in the true tradition, but I remember the music. Man, that was fun.
Bill of the Birds is back from the Phils, jetlagged to the max, but we started St. Patrick's Day with a mini-hooley around the kitchen table, working out some acoustic music for the Swinging Orangutangs' next engagement, this coming Friday, March 20, at the Marietta Brewing Company, 167 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio.
Music doesn't take energy. It gives it. Ideally. With the possible exception of load-in, load-out, setup, rehearsal, and next-day wastage.