Friday, April 13, 2012

Coconut milk vs. peanut butter?

I love all my colleagues. I love how, because we come from different backgrounds, we can constantly poke fun at each other and at ourselves.

Here's something written by an extremely talented Dutch-West Papua-economist-islander and all-around funny girl, Olga. (I don't know why she doesn't give up economics for comic writing.)

Coconut milk vs. Peanut butter

As a true economist I would say it depends. There are a number of factors one should consider when choosing between coconut milk and peanut butter. Both have benefits (enjoyment to say the least) and disadvantages (saturated fat). There are also a number of questions that arise from the initial question:
“If you had to choose between coconut milk and peanut butter, which would you choose?” For example, ‘Why would you choose between the two?’ ‘When would you choose between the two?’ and ‘What planet are you from thinking that I could possibly choose between the two?’
I feel that the only way for me to figure out which I would choose is to make a cost-benefit analysis. The cost-benefit analysis that I shall conduct is not in the strict sense a cost-benefit analysis. I will specifically look at a few situational factors, and then draw an overall conclusion from this debate. I must say that there is no evidence to suggest that the two can be looked at in isolation, as they are part of a greater system- the islander system.

The two are not substitutable; choosing between the two is a pickle. Coconut milk is not consumed as is (unless you want to have a heart attack)- it’s always cooked with something. However, coconut water (only from the young coconut mind you) is a refreshing drink. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is a ready when you are type of thing. You can just dip carrot/ celery sticks into the peanut butter and hey presto a snack. For minimum input-maximum output dilemma I would say that peanut butter wins hands down.

I can hear you banter,
“If you think the two are not substitutes; do you consider them complements?”
Well, the two are not strict complements as you can have one without the other. You can have coconut rice and you can have peanut butter on bread. However the two do work well together when you make sate sauce (even if you have to add extra things, like sambal and lime leaves/juice etc). I suggest that the two are weak complements rather than substitutes as they are more often associated with edible awesomeness rather than strictly separate entities.

But why restrict this debate to consumption….
If the two were super heroes though, then it would be different. If I think about it- Coconut Milk would have the power of blinding people with shaves of coconut (as coconut milk is made from straining coconut shaves). Peanut butter would have the power of stickiness- stopping people dead in their tracks with peanut butter. If coconut milk and peanut butter met in battle I think coconut milk would win by default. Blinding someone is more effective way to destroy them then just making them sticky.

In their natural state
I must say in their natural state both are brown, one is hairy and the other is pale slightly bumpy; one a nut the other a legume. With a coconut you see it grow then you watch it fall (hopefully not on your head) a peanut on the other hand grows underground- so the end result is a surprise. Thus making the peanut slightly more intriguing, well at least to me.

If I think about it, it takes more effort to get coconut milk then it does peanut butter. Peanuts just need to be crushed, whereas a coconut needs to be husked, cracked open, scrapped and then strained. The energy taken to make coconut milk makes it more worthwhile. This means that although peanut butter wins when it comes to efficiency, coconut milk trumps peanut butter when it boils down to the desirability of the end result.

To fuel the fire
Both are quite oily so they make for a good source of fuel. The more important question is however, how much energy one can extract from burning the coconut compared to the peanut. An important implication here is that you should have the same weight in each substance prior to burning. Not only is the fuel important, but the carbon imprint. The trade-off here is between the amount of energy produced compared to the carbon imprint. As the coconut is oilier than the peanut it will produce more fuel. More smoke is produced when burning a coconut- thereby making it less environmentally friendly than the peanut. Given that I appreciate the environment more than energy (islander mentality); I would sway the way of the peanut.

Looking at the coconut and the peanut you realize that the peanut rejuvenates the soil. It’s used quite often to re-add nutrients to the soil in tropical countries. The process is as such that after growing a crop (and yielding set crop) the soil becomes less nutritious. By default this means that the next crop that is grown in the field will not be as good as the last. So to re-use the field rather than watching it reduce its nutritious value, peanuts are grown in between. This rejuvenates the soil and allows the following season’s crops to do as well as the last. Peanuts win hands down.

The conclusion drawn from this little intriguing question is that it depends per circumstance whether I prefer coconut milk or peanut butter. Looking at all the evidence supplied above peanut butter wins hands down. Its more efficient and effective snack, its more environmentally friendly and its more intriguing as it grows as you have to dig it out. I do however feel that more research needs to be done to statistically prove that peanut butter is actually preferred over coconut milk.

1 comment:

qrratugai said...

For me, it's coconut milk all the way -- if I've to choose between it and peanut butter. I can't stand peanut butter!


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