Sometimes you feel like a nut,
by Deborah Fagan Carpenter
As a child growing up in the 1950s, one of the highlights of an automobile trip, was spotting the occasional roadside fruit and vegetable stand that touted “BOILED PEANUTS.” Sometimes the peanuts would be in small, paper bags alongside the beans and tomatoes and other produce in the market, and sometimes there would be a large pot, teeming with peanuts swimming in dark, salty, water, cooking on an outdoor brick fireplace. In that case, our parents would tell the owner how much they wanted, and he or she would scoop them into the paper bags.
Back on the highway with our bags of nuts, we’d crack each one open with our teeth, suck the juice, savor the large, moist meat, and then throw the empty shells out of the car window. While of course, the shells are biodegradable (not a word anyone knew back then) and would soon turn to dust, today, throwing them out of the car window would probably secure a $50 littering fine, and even at that time, was doubtless “tacky.” But the process of eating them in the car was half the pleasure, I think.
In those early days of childhood, late summer and early fall were marked by the arrival of pomegranates, muscadines, quince, and green peanuts. The peanuts were more often than not parched, but for me, boiled peanuts was at the top of the autumn snack list, and it was also something I thought all Southerners appreciated.
To my astonishment, it has recently come to my attention that not all Southerners love, or can even tolerate, boiled peanuts! The reality of this has not only made me question my own culinary judgement, but it has highlighted the fact that not all Southerners are created equal. We do not all eat watermelon, we do not all drink our tea sweetened, and we do not all love barbeque. What other problematic behavior could be lurking?
I guess that’s why God made chocolate AND vanilla. But before boiled peanut haters write them off completely, consider these facts: Boiled peanuts are a healthy snack. Boiled peanuts have more nutritional value than either raw or parched nuts because the process of boiling them draws the antioxidants from the shell, giving the boiled nuts four times the amount of antioxidants than they have raw or parched. But even better, boiled peanuts have almost half the calories of ones that are parched—90 calories per ounce, as compared to 170 calories per ounce.
You don’t have to seek a roadside stand in order to enjoy the tasty legumes. (Yes, that’s right; peanuts aren’t nuts at all, but rather, beans.) While it takes a little time and patience to boil nuts at home, it’s worth the effort for the FEW of you who like them. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I washed two pounds of raw nuts, covered them with water in a large pot, brought them to a boil, added one fourth cup of salt, and after reducing the heat to medium, cooked them for approximately three hours. After the first hour or so, I began testing them for doneness every 30 minutes, and the result was nuts that had a little “crunch” left in them, as opposed to ones that were cooked until they were really soft, as they’re often prepared.
Not ONE of my Southern friends was open to the idea of sharing the healthy, low calorie, good for your heart, protein packed, antioxidant rich, salty, but slightly sweet, delicious treats with me, and I’m sorry for their loss. Clearly, it’s an acquired taste.
Roadside Market Photo from www.pinterest.com
Raw Peanuts from Deborah Fagan Carpenter
Boiled Peanuts from Deborah Fagan Carpenter