I’ve really struggled with this post. Starting, stopping, writing something completely different only to return to the same blinking cursor on an empty screen. I got nothing, which is a shame because boiled peanuts aka goober peas are definitely worthy of the spotlight. However, unlike other classic southern foods like cornmeal crusted catfish, collard greens with pot liquor or a thick slice of some granny’s sweet potato pie, peanuts cooked in salted hot water have all the sex appeal of neckbeards.
Don't get me wrong, I like peanuts. I can still remember the bag of honey roasted nuts I ate on my very first airplane flight from Newark to Buffalo in 1985. Mr. Goodbars are the shit. And I’d fist fight anyone who thinks it's something other than the crunch that makes the Kung, PAO!
Don't Judge a Nut by Its Wet Shell
There's always been something about a wet peanut that's made me turn a blind eye to the numerous shacks that the dot the vacant lots and gas station parking lots throughout much of the South. But this past summer while visiting my sister and fam in Middle Georgia, I did what I haven't done in over 20 years. I got myself a bag of boiled peanuts and found out a few things in the process. 1. I am not a very smart man. I just learned peanuts grow in the ground. All my life I've been living a lie. 2. Peanuts are a legume, not an actual nut 3. The tradition of boiling peanuts was introduced to North America by West African Slaves, not desperate Confederate Soldiers like some "older" books would imply. You know what I'm talking about and 4. Holy shit, goober peas rule.
Boiled in highly salted water for hours, they have the consistency of edamame and the taste of whatever they are cooked with. You eat them like a Louisiana crawfish. Squeeze the pod with your thumb and index finger and the shell pops open. Bite the meat, suck the flavorful juice, discard the shell and repeat. I'm told real southerners will pop the immature single pods, shell and all for an extra crunch.
Long before Lays started their "new flavors" campaign, roadside chefs have been making their own exotic flavored nuts. Hardy Farms throughout Georgia sell their Delicious Dill Pickle and Sweet Southern Sriracha. Meanwhile "The Peanut Girl" in Aberdeen North Carolina stews her nuts in giant cauldrons stuffed with onions, peppers and tomatoes and takes orders in advance over the phone. In the Mississippi Delta they are known for their Cajun's goobers and of course you have to try the Nashville Hot Nuts when in Tennessee. Apparently, they even sell boiled nuts in the can, but I'm not quite ready to try those yet.
Am I ready to give up my favorite bags of chips for these? No, but the next time I'm driving in the South and see a roadside shack, I'll definitely stop. And so should you!