One jar of Skippy was half-used, the surface furred with gray, the mycelium tracing the scarps left by fork tines in the colloid beneath. Z craned his neck to see over M’s shoulder. “Anisotropic,” he murmured. “Like it’s going somewhere.” She rolled her eyes, replaced the lid, and slid that jar to the far end of the counter. The next was intact, its mylar seal bearing injunctions similar to those of the JIF.
“What was it used for?”
“Everything,” Z said. “You put it on toast, on bananas, on apples, you mixed it in with noodles, you blended it with nut milk, it was used as an emergency supplement for starving kids. Spoon it straight from the jar if you were hungry.”
“You didn’t put it on noodles, that was sesame paste.”
“No, we did it with peanut butter too.”
“That explains a lot.”
“Though you can’t really call this stuff peanut butter. ‘Sweetened emulsified peanut-inspired spread’ would be more accurate. This could be the last peanut product on the continent.”
“Or until the next guesthouse.” M peeled back the mylar seal, knitting her brow in concentration as she took the edge between the nails of thumb and first finger and freed it where it was fused to the rim of the jar. She touched the tip of her smallest finger to the surface, then touched it to the tip of her tongue: rancid palm oil. She made a face and screwed the lid back on, sliding that jar down the counter to its congener.
“It was a children’s food?”
“Yes but not just.”
“They don’t make it any more?”
“Peanuts were wiped out by a rust.”
“What was it doing here?”