Americans eat enough peanut butter every year to coat the entire floor of the Grand Canyon.

Eighty-three percent of all Americans buy peanut butter, according to an article in the current issue of Country Living, and by the end of high school the average American teenager will have eaten 1,500 peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches

People have been enjoying peanuts for thousands of years, but it was only at the end of the last century that anyone thought of grinding them up.

On this continent, Spanish explorers found peanuts growing as far north as Mexico and brought them back to Spain.

As for the peanut business in the United States, records show peanuts were grown commercially in South Carolina around the year 1800 and used for oil, food and as a substitute for cocoa.

By 1850 the cry of "Hot Roasted Peanuts" rang out on street corners, at ball parks and circuses. Around the turn of the century, the development of time-saving peanut harvesting and shelling machines, and the work of botanist George Washington Carver, made peanuts a big crop in the South.

But it was not until 1890 that an unknown St. Louis physician prepared a peanut spread in his kitchen food grinder and what was to become America's favorite way to eat peanuts was born. The new treat was high in protein and easily digested by his elderly patients.

By 1900, commercially produced peanut butter, with a generous layer of oil on top, was on the market. By 1914, several dozen brands graced the grocer's shelves. Tins of this new treat were soon in pantries all over America.

In 1923, inventor J.L. Rosefield perfected a process that prevented separation by replacing part of the natural oil with hydrogenated peanut oil.

One of the first companies to use this process was Swift & Co., producer of Peter Pan peanut butter. In 1932, Rosefield decided to market his own brand, Skippy. Along with Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan are still the most popular peanut butters in the United States.

If you are among the few Americans who don't understand the nation's love affair with the noble spread, then you might be suffering from arachibutyrophobia, or the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

In case you were wondering why peanut butter does that, it's because the stuff is not only dense and thick, but the high protein content pulls moisture away from the mouth.