SG | During my last Walmart trip, I found myself staring at a can of boiled peanuts perched on a top shelf in the grocery store-within-a-store. The question was not should I buy these peanuts, but whether to buy the regular or the “Hot & Spicy” variety. I chose the latter, imagining myself cracking the can open some night in the near future with a beer on hand. And I did just that, after the kids had gone to bed, dripping spicy juice on the comics section as I worked my way through the entire batch. They were not bad.
Growing up in Alabama, I naturally assumed
the vast majority of the world lived with hot boiled peanuts at its disposal.
Four years ago I didn’t even know boiled peanuts could come from a can. I had always enjoyed them hot, out of a paper bag, or cold, out of a plastic zipper bag in the refrigerator. Hot is preferred, of course, but either is delightful and instantly addictive. And usually these things are measured in pounds, not ounces, with serving sizes left to the imagination (as it happens, I made a single-serving of my 25-ounce can, intended to be shared comfortably by four).
Growing up in Alabama, I naturally assumed the vast majority of the world lived with hot boiled peanuts at its disposal. If you drive 10 minutes out of town in any direction at the right time of year, there will be a man on the side of the road standing at the ready to dip your desired weight of peanuts out of his pot of dark, boiling liquid. Or at least, that was the case 25 years ago (if Montgomerians are now buying their boiled peanuts from cans in Walmart, please let me know and we’ll start a movement).
To those who have not tried them, I can best describe boiled peanuts as the South’s version of edamame, superior as they may be to steamed soy. Half the fun is in shelling them and watching as the pile of soggy discarded halves mounts. There’s the risk you run if you eat them with any open scrape or cut on your hands. There are those little runt peanuts you’re not quite sure you should eat. And there’s the alluring juice that pools in the shell halves. You can suck it out — it’s not as satisfying as you imagine, but no one will judge you for it.
When I moved away, far west, I understood that to leave the South meant to leave my boiled peanut connection. So I boiled my own. They were passable, and entertaining to my now-wife. But let me tell you, green peanuts are hard to come by. And another thing I learned: You can never use enough salt.
Now I live in North Carolina. And I know the real deal is out there, waiting for me in a roiling pot somewhere down a back road, but I have yet to find them. So in the meantime I will get by buying peanuts by the ounce, recommended servings sizes be damned.