BR. NATHANIEL: Throw in a little prayer, some peanuts, a little salt - kaboom! - you got it.
BR. JOEL: Hi, I'm Br. Joel. You're listening to "Echoes from the Bell Tower." Stories of wit and wisdom from Benedictine monks who live, work and pray in southern Indiana.
BR. JOEL: I'm not sure you know this, but peanut butter is a big hit in the monastery. A little over a year ago, Br. Kolbe, Br. Nathaniel and Fr. Thomas decided to try to make their own peanut butter. Br. Nathaniel and Br. Kolbe sat down to talk about this experiment back in November.
BR. NATHANIEL: We were thinking for a while that it would be neat to learn how to make our own peanut butter, just for us to consume in the monastery.
BR. KOLBE: Yeah, and Fr. Thomas, who really, really liked eating different nuts and stuff like that, and he would eat a lot of peanut butter. He said, "You know, we should just make our own nut butter." Nathaniel kind of continued with that process, and they ended up getting some nuts, and we ended up experimenting, so we found a recipe that worked.
For most part, like Nathaniel said, we eat quite a bit of peanut butter already, and we were looking for a healthier option to begin with, because we didn't want all that sugar or extra stuff that's in other peanut butters.
BR. JOEL: The trio named their peanut butter Peanut Brother, and they enlisted the community to taste test their recipe. Here is what some of them said …
FR. DENIS: I had Peanut Brother maybe for the first time a few weeks ago and I have to say, it is really the best peanut butter I've ever had. It's tasty, but also you can tell that it has that little bit of added ingredient in it, and that is the prayer of the monks.
BR. STANLEY: Yes, I have tried Peanut Brother and it is absolutely delicious. It's simple ingredients. It's salt and peanuts and I'm a fan of smooth peanut butter. I don't like chunky peanut butter, but I like Peanut Brother because there's a very nice balance between chunky and smooth.
BR. FRANCIS: I don't know. I like the taste of it. It's not as sweet as store bought, and it's probably better for you because it doesn't have all the additives and preservatives in it. I don't know, I just like it.
ARCHABBOT KURT: I have tried it and love it. It leaves a better taste in my mouth knowing that it's the work of our own hands, the work of some of our monks.
BR. JOEL: I promise we didn't pay them to say all that. Now, we go through about 30 pounds of Peanut Brother a month in the monastery!
BR. NATHANIEL: Sometimes it seems faster.
BR. KOLBE: Well, and that's 30 pounds of the stuff that we make a month. Some people aren't 100 percent convinced that our peanut butter ... I don't know what they're hesitant on, but we go through a lot less of the other peanut butter as well. The commercial brands.
BR. NATHANIEL: It's not uncommon to see somebody with a spoon of peanut butter walking around.
BR. KOLBE: Yeah, that's true.
BR. NATHANIEL: Some of us are even creative with how we use the peanut butter too. I like to mix it in my oatmeal, but others have started mixing it in Greek yogurt, or-
BR. KOLBE: Really?
BR. NATHANIEL: Oh yeah. I've actually done that a few times too.
BR. KOLBE: I've not seen that.
BR. NATHANIEL: Highly recommend it, plain Greek yogurt and nothing else. So plain Greek yogurt, you can throw a little honey in there, some cinnamon. Oh yeah. You're living the dream.
BR. JOEL: There was a trend in the monastery for a while where monks would put a banana on a plate, cover it in peanut butter, some honey and a little cinnamon, and microwave it for a couple seconds. It is absolutely delicious. We asked some of the other monks how they like to eat Peanut Brother…
BR. FRANCIS: Typically on some whole wheat bread with a little bit of honey.
FR. DENIS: I like to eat it on a piece of toasted raisin bread, and then when I toast the raisin bread, I put the peanut butter on it and then the peanut butter melts just a little bit, and that's very tasty.
FR. CHRISTIAN: I think it tastes really good on chocolate donuts.
FR. HARRY: I'm just a peanut butter sandwich person myself, so anyway that's how I eat it.
BR. JOEL: The monastic community has enjoyed Peanut Brother so much that they decided to sell it in the Archabbey Gift Shop. To keep up with the demand, they have had to enlist the help of the community to make, jar and label the peanut butter.
Here's Archabbot Kurt…
ARCHABBOT KURT: It's a great example of a monastic work for a number of reasons. It's simple. It doesn't require great skill to make. You can have a number of monks working at this at various times. You don't have to go away to school and get a degree or specialized training.
It's also a work that, while you're doing this, whether it's jarring the peanut butter or labeling the jars, you've got monks together doing this as a team and talking with each other about whatever. It's one of those works that, in some way, at the same time is also a bit of a community recreation. And it's something we're doing to try to support the other works that we do.
BR. NATHANIEL: Yeah, I think that's the neat thing. On our jar, when it says that this peanut butter is made by the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, it really is made by the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. It's not one person, or two people or three people. It's a community effort.
BR. JOEL: In some ways Peanut Brother has become a ministry for us. We come together as a community along a common project and through that we are able to share the story of Saint Meinrad and the Gospel message with those who buy a jar.
BR. NATHANIEL: Yeah, I think you're right. The peanut butter itself is accidental. Yes, it's fun to make. Yes, it tastes so very good, but if nothing else, it really opens the door for somebody else to one, not only be introduced to Saint Meinrad, if he or she has not already, but also, maybe to encounter the Gospel message through the witness of our work and the story behind the product.
There is certainly that as well. You could even say it's a ministry internally for us as a community too. There's nothing that brings people together such as a common project. In a certain way, this is helping us realize our humanity and the Christ that is in each one of us as well.
BR. JOEL: I hope you enjoyed hearing the back-story to our homemade peanut butter. The guys are beginning to experiment with making honey Peanut Brother and Almond Brother. Both are delicious on the homemade bread Br. Kolbe makes.
Today's episode was edited and produced by Krista Hall with the help of Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Jim Paquette, Tammy Schuetter, Christian Mocek, Br. Kolbe and myself, Br. Joel. I wrote and produced the music you heard in this episode.
Thank you to Archabbot Kurt, Br. Kolbe and Br. Nathaniel for talking to us about Peanut Brother and thanks to Fr. Denis Robinson, Fr. Harry Hagan, Fr. Christian, Br. Francis and Br. Stanley for taste testing the product.
FR. CHRISTIAN: I do think we need a little logo that looks like Mr. Peanut, but he's wearing a habit.
BR. JOEL: If you're interested in trying Peanut Brother, you can pick up a jar at the Archabbey Gift Shop or Scholar Shop for $6.99. Or if you're not on campus, you can call the Gift Shop at 812-357-8290. They'd be happy to ship some Peanut Brother out to you.
One final thing, this episode goes along with an article that was published in the Winter 2019 issue of theOn the Hillnewsletter. You can find a link to that newsletter and some pictures of the monks jarring and labeling Peanut Brother in the blog post for this episode at saintmeinrad.edu/echoes.
BR. KOLBE: Was it Monk Butter even at one point? But that sounded disgusting.
BR. NATHANIEL: Yeah, it may have been. Prayer Nut Butter?
BR. KOLBE: Prayer Nut Butter, yeah.