Cashew Butter: Pleasant Surprise

Here’s a new rule from Mary’s Daily Life Playbook: When the rut on our daily grind gets below grade level, check out another path.

I know that could be a metaphor for some deep spiritual truth, but I’m not venturing past the grocery store. A couple days ago I took the radical step of shopping at a different store and was treated to a pleasant surprise: Freshly ground cashew butter (from the Safeway health food section, in case you want to try some.)

Here’s the thing: I had tried cashew butter before, from a jar. It was hard and bland–almost rancid—tasting. Later, our longtime dentist told me how his nutritionist had recommended cashew butter but he pitched the jar after one try. As a healthy eating coach, I didn’t want to contradict his nutritionist, but in secret I had to agree with him.

But now my Safeway experience has me seeing cashew butter in a whole new light. Freshly ground it is soft, creamy and rich. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Fresh is almost always better, whether it’s green beans, freshly baked bread or nut butter. Of course, fresh sometimes has to give way to frozen (as with green beans in the middle of winter), but happily, freshly ground cashew butter can be had year round—and also almond and peanut butter (which are similarly delectable)

There are some nutritional advantages to be had from branching beyond the peanut butter jar, which is why our dentist’s nutritionist recommended it. Likely as not it had something to do with increased nutritional variety. Americans tend to eat a lot of peanut butter. (Skippy reports that the average kid eats 1500 PB&Js during their school years.) Mixing things up a bit with cashew and even almond butter brings some different nutrients to the table.

Without a doubt, cashew butter is pricey at $8.99 per pound (or $4.85 for a 12-oz. tub.) But here’s another way of looking at the cost issue: First, $8.99/lb. pays for an organic variety, so you’re avoiding whatever environmental damage is packaged with cheap peanut butter. Second, it’s very rich, so you eat only small amounts at a time. Third, how much do you spend on pain relievers and other drugs? Buying a rich diversity of foods makes us feel good, too, just in a different and more long-term way.

Also, in case you’d like to try before you buy, Safeway has a nice arrangement: taster cups allow you to sample before you invest. You can also grind whatever amount you want and can afford.

Finally, what do you do with it? That’s where the fun begins. Trying new ingredients offers a sure path out the daily grind. So far, I’ve just been eating small spoonfuls as a snack. I also spread it on toast. But the creative cooking brain is definitely churning. Maybe some kind of sauce with Asian-type flavors? Maybe something with chocolate? I’m open to suggestions. . . .

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