September 8th is National Ants On A Log Day. Most kids growing up in the 1950s or later ate them as a healthy snack: celery stalks stuffed with peanut butter (the log) topped with raisins (the ants).
Our mom took a creative approach, alternating the ants with purple raisins (the boy ants) and golden raisins (sultanas, the girl ants).
This kiddie favorite can easily be made more sophisticated for grown-ups, as well as more fun for kids.
Play with these substitutions. There combinations are [almost] endless. For sophistication, we like fennel or celery with goat cheese, dried cherries or cranberries and pistachio nuts (call them the visiting friends of the ants); as well as tzatziki with sliced black olive ants. For comfort food, it’s chocolate peanut butter with dried cherries and pecans.
And don’t forget flavored peanut butter*!
To customize your Ants On A Log, cut celery in 3-inch long pieces and fill with your spread of your choice and topping of choice. Suggested substitutions:
Ladybugs On A Stick: Photo courtesy California Avocado Commission. Here’s the recipe.
For peanut butter: flavored peanut butter* or other nut or seed butters, including almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower butter
Beyond nut butter: cottage cheese (plain or seasoned), cream cheese (plain or flavored), goat cheese, Greek yogurt (plain, seasoned or tzatziki), hummus (plain or flavored)
For the raisins: blueberries, chocolate-covered raisins, dried cherries or cranberries, freeze-dried vegetables, nuts, sliced black olives, sultanas
For the celery: bok choy, carrots (sliced with a flat top), Chinese celery, fennel
NEW NAMES, MORE FUN
Hats off to Food Network for these variations:
Ants On A Ranch: cream and ranch dressing with peas (we used crunchy freeze-dried peas or corn)
Beans On A Stalk: guacamole with black beans
Berries On A Branch: cookie butter and blueberries
Fish In A Stream: hummus with Goldfish
Ladybugs On A Log: strawberry cream cheese with dried cranberries
Pigs In A Pen: pimento cheese and bacon
*Check out ILovePeanutButter.com for Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, Dark Chocolate Dreams, Mighty Maple, Pumpkin Spice, The Bee’s Knees, The Heat Is On, White Chocolate Wonderful.
And the award for creativity goes to…The Food Network, for these variations. From top to bottom: Ants On A Log, Berries On A Branch, Ladybugs On A Log, Beans On A Stalk, Fish In A Stream, Pigs In A Pen. Photo courtesy Food Network.
THE HISTORY OF ANTS ON A LOG
Celery and raisins have been eaten—not necessarily together—since ancient times. Celery, raisin and nut salads arrived on our shores with German immigrants in the 19th century.
George Washington Carver invented a form of peanut butter in the 19th century and made a soup of peanut butter and celery. But the smooth, spreadable peanut butter we know today was invented in 1890 by a St. Louis physician.
He sought a high-protein food substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn’t chew meat. Others soon discovered how tasty peanut butter was, and, like many products, it was sold in bulk from barrels at grocery stores.
Peanut butter was first distributed commercially by Krema Nut Company, the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today (and the PB is superb!). Here’s more on the history of peanut butter.
Now for the celery: The American practice of stuffing celery began in the early 20th century, with anchovy paste, Roquefort, cream cheese and soon, pimento cheese, port wine cheddar and other cheese spreads. The filling was topped with spices, including curry and paprika.
According to old cookbooks, stuffed celery was served as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre at the beginning of a meal. People of all ages enjoyed it at dinner parties, family get-togethers and holiday meals. Stuffed celery was also served as to children as snacks.
These appetizers and hors d’oeuvre remained popular through the 1960s. There are some old recipes that include nuts and raisins, although none quite describe the “ants on a log” we know today. Peanut butter fillings for celery surface in the early 1960s. [Source]
We actually don’t know who invented Ants On A Log. Magazine and newspaper articles from the 1980s attribute it to the Girl Scouts, but they don’t give specific references. The recipe appears in Girl Scout cookbooks dating to 1946; however, the recipe is simply called Celery Sticks.
We may never know who named it, but “Ants on A Log” was first used in the 1950s. Whoever you are: Thanks for putting a fun name on peanut butter-stuffed celery sticks.