The Veggie Patch, our local fruit and vegetable stand, opened back up for the summer recently. The other day, as ConnieLou and I were headed home from running errands and as we passed by ConnieLou said “Too bad we’re already past The Veggie Patch, I’d like some fresh tomatoes.” I replied “Yeah, and I’d like to have some boiled peanuts.” Needless to say we found a place to turn around, doubled back and were soon pulling into the parking lot. In fairly short order we were leaving with a basket of tomatoes and a couple of scoops of peanuts.
Boiled peanuts are one of those quintessentially southern foods along with grits, sweet tea, Coca-Cola and chili dogs from The Varsity. OK, I know that you can get a Coke and a chili dog dang near anywhere but somehow chili dogs from The Varsity are special and Coke, well, Coca-Cola has its origins right here in Georgia. Boiled peanuts are simple fare…green peanuts boiled in salty water. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Sure, you can buy ‘cajun flavored’ boiled peanuts and other flavored boiled peanuts and you can even buy boiled peanuts packed in a can…but why?
Boiled peanuts, like beer and Scotch, are said to be an acquired taste. Some acquire the taste for boiled peanuts early in life, some acquire it later and then there are those unfortunate folks who never acquire it at all. Me? I acquired it early. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t born with it.
My earliest recollection of boiled peanuts was of eating them on the patio with my Grandpa Davenport who lived next door to us. He would show me how to look for the little bump on the side of the shell at the opposite end as the stem and squeeze at the bump to pop the shell open. He also taught me how to ‘schlurp’ the peanuts out of the shell and not lose any of the salty juice.
I remember the two of us going to buy boiled peanuts, along with fresh peaches and plums at local fruit stands near where we lived. I also remember him buying raw peanuts then boiling them with salt in a big stock pot on the stove. Once cooked he’d drain off the salty water, let them cool, bag them up in quart bags and put the bagged peanuts in the freezer for later. I usually stayed at my grandparents after school when I was in elementary school and my Grandad would break out a bag now and then and let it thaw for afternoon snacks for a couple of days.
During my college days, particularly during my time at Young Harris College, I remember buying boiled peanuts at one of a number of roadside stands. During the fall we’d head out to our favorite peanut stand to pick up a couple of scoops to enjoy while watching college football in the afternoon. More often than not these ‘stands’ consisted of an older gentleman in overalls tending a large soot-covered pot set on three cement blocks over a wood fire. The peanuts were usually stirred with a piece of wood shingle carved into a paddle and dipped out with a large metal ladle with holes punched in the bottom. I don’t think the wood fire added anything to the taste of the boiled peanuts but they sure were good.
I haven’t seen many peanut pots over wood fires in recent years. Propane burners have taken the place of wood and cement blocks but fortunately one can still find the older gentleman in overalls tending his peanut pot at roadside stands here and there. Cajun boiled peanuts and boiled peanuts in a can may appeal to some. But for me, I’ll take the simplicity of peanuts, salt and water…and that suits me just fine.