Get out the peanut butter

H.ROWAN espoused the cause of peanut butter outside the kitchen more ardently than anybody else I've ever known. To Rowan, peanut butter, chained to the kitchen -- most of the time hid with the breakfast cereal and crackers and cans of soup, except for brief moments of glory -- deserved better. When Rowan, peering out upon peanut-butter abuse, got excited about the possibilities, he changed from being an ordinary person into being a growing dynamo, a short, bearded, stout Clint Eastwood type. When the change came upon him, as it did now, Rowan tucked a barrel of peanut butter under his arm, crammed crackers into his pockets, and went places where you would not normally expect to find peanut butter, to spread it around. I suppose that nobody really cared one way or the other, except Rafe Gindersnap, president and chairman of the board of the Anti-Peanut-Butter-out-of-the-Kitchen League.

I had not seen Rowan toting his barrels of peanut butter for a while -- he may have had other things to do. Then, one day, I was shopping at the mall and had sat down at a table at an outdoor caf'e. As I sipped my root beer, I was vaguely aware of a familiar face in a short, fuzzy frame, scooping peanut butter from a barrel, spreading great quantities of it on crackers with a large butter knife -- eating some of them, passing some of them around.

Rowan was at it again, and I knew that Gindersnap was nearby, though out of sight, ready to do Rowan mischief. Rowan smiled benevolently as he went about his work. Gindersnap, climbing out of an air-conditioning duct in a wall, or perhaps it was a subterranean entrance or exit, confiscated the barrel of peanut butter. Gindersnap hailed a nearby policeman, cited City Ordinance No. 27: ``There shall be no peanut butter outside the kitchen in barrels for longer than necessary.''

``Rowan has had his barrel of peanut butter outside of the kitchen for longer than necessary,'' Gindersnap said to the policeman, showing the policeman his notes. ``Do your duty!'' The policeman did his duty, but without much enthusiasm, munching a peanut-buttered cracker as he led Rowan away.

Out of ``stir'' finally, Rowan passed me one day muttering something to the effect: ``I'll take this to the finest eatery in town for a showdown!'' That would, of course, be the grand dining room of the Hotel Fantonbleu.

``When?'' I demanded.

``Tonight!'' Rowan said, severe as a stand-up comedian whose joke had been misunderstood.

I had to be there -- surely you can see that. Rowan's robust sense of the dignity of a liberated peanut butter caught fire in me. Peanut butter was moving toward its destiny.

Rowan must have withdrawn his life savings to reserve the center table in the Hotel Fantonbleu dining room, the glittering spoke of the wheel so to speak, directly under the huge crystal chandelier. Rowan, dressed in a tux, his shiny black shoes reflecting light like crazy, sat regally, surrounded by barrels of peanut butter and boxes of crackers. How he got the peanut butter into the dining room of the fabulous Hotel Fantonbleu puzzled me as much as it must puzzle you.

With a large butter knife in his hand, Rowan began scooping out peanut butter onto crackers, eating some, passing some around to the appreciative, tuxedoed and gowned diners; I counted 500. You could sense excitement building; even the waiters, apprehensive at first, were becoming charged with a kind of revolutionary fervor, as they began to eat the peanut-buttered crackers.

Gindersnap made his move. He came out from under a table where he had been hiding and began to cite, through a bullhorn, City Ordinance No. 27 and said he had summoned the police. While we waited, he preached a sermon on why decent society should keep peanut butter in the kitchen when in barrels. A murmur of protest began to arise.

As the armed policepersons moved tentatively (obviously aware of the letter of City Ordinance No. 27 but not very much in agreement with it) toward Rowan -- who seemed to be growing a halo as the forces of good and bad met in final, or at least tardy, conflict -- I felt impelled to act; I felt I must do something significant now or be sorry ever after.

Jumping on a table, quite unlike me, I'm afraid, I upset china, goblets, and silverware, not to mention the diners. I pleaded, in my loudest voice, the case for peanut butter, especially in barrels. I pleaded for the rescinding of the cruel ordinance. Once I got started, it was hard to stop -- you know how it is with people who don't plead often.

When I finished, the tuxedoed and gowned diners, the mayor, and city council members rose from their chairs instantly with loud voices, repealing the foul ordinance. The posh crowd lifted that beloved elf, H. Rowan, and the barrels of peanut butter to their shoulders and carried him around and around the room. It was very emotional.

There is no doubt in my mind that Rowan, more than any other person, has brought peanut butter in barrels out of the kitchen, into the best places in America. Next time you see a barrel of peanut butter where you never saw one before, thank Harcourt Rowan.

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