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May '09

Boiled Peanuts: Eating Goobers on the Half Shell

Boiled Peanuts: Eating Goobers on the Half Shell

Book Excerpts and Food Articles by Doug DuCap

Like self-discipline, a taste for boiled peanuts is often said to be something that is ‘acquired.’

Now, self-discipline, i.e., the mastery of one’s urges and impulses in service of larger goals, certainly sounds worthwhile. Sadly, though, it’s a notion I’ll have to accept on faith because, well… because I’ve never had the self-discipline necessary to acquire any self-discipline.

Especially when it comes to boiled peanuts.

Because a taste for them was not something I had to expend any energy acquiring: from my very first day in South Carolina and my very first experience with what I now know were overboiled and oversalted filling-station peanuts, served in (gasp!) a styrofoam cup, I was completely and utterly hooked.

Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts Stand at the Charleston SC Piggly Wiggly SupermarketBut it took me a while to get there. For years I’d seen signs for them at gas stations and rest stops on the way to Florida (to New Yorkers, the South is something you drive through to get to Florida, which to them isn’t really the South.) I’d even seen cans of “Green Boiled Peanuts” at souvenir shops, which led me to believe that they were a species of novelty rather than real food; something people ate on a dare when they were drunk.

I’ve since learned that boiled peanuts are the Official State Snack Food of South Carolina (Article 3 Section 1-1-682 of the S.C. Code of Laws, in case you were wondering), which should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent any time in South Carolina. You don’t have to throw a rock particularly hard to find a place to buy them: just about every convenience store, supermarket, gas station, grocery store, and farmer’s market sells them, either hot & ready to eat, or canned in various sizes, or in those oh-so-convenient microwave pouches. They are, literally, everywhere.

That’s not even including those accursed roadside stands which are, for me at least, the gastronomic equivalent of opium dens. No, make that crack houses: opium involves specialized accoutrement and stylish, elaborate rituals; crack is (to misappropriate the title of a totally unrelated Errol Morris film) fast, cheap, and out of control. Opium smokers ‘bang the gong’ once, then lie back and sojourn in the land of sweet, airy dreams; crackheads, on the other hand, would methodically smoke their way through a mountain of rocks — if they had a mountain of rocks to smoke.

Tony the Peanut Man Boiled Peanuts Stand Charleston, South CarolinaAnd that’s exactly the way it is with boiled peanuts. Which is why I stand before you today in a pile of empty shells, arms wet to the elbows, and proclaim with salt-wrinkled lips that I am, officially, a Boiled Peanut Addict.

I am aware that this is my opportunity to express my feelings of sorrow or shame, but I am neither sorrowful nor ashamed. Je ne regrette rien, ya’ll! Alright, well, maybe I do seem a bit furtive as I sit in my car and snarf down pound after pound as fast as I can shell them, but that has more to do with gluttony than with the object thereof.

No, there are far worse things to be addicted to than boiled peanuts. Besides being vitamin and protein rich, they have quadruple the antioxidant properties of raw or roasted peanuts. And while drug abuse will ruin your life, the worst that boiled peanut abuse will do is mess up your shirt front and spoil your appetite come suppertime.

Still, the knowledge and acceptance of my addiction has lead to a degree of practical self-awareness. For instance, I have discovered after many disconcertingly gluttonous episodes that I will immediately eat as many pounds as I buy, regardless of my best intentions to ’save some for later’ or share them with anyone other than myself. And though I haven’t developed any actual self-discipline as a result, I’m proud to say I’ve learned to moderate my purchasing excesses by holding steadfastly to one simple rule: I never buy more than I can carry back to the car in one trip.

Okay, okay: I never buy more than the wheelbarrow can carry back to the car in one trip, but that’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?

If you dare, you can flirt with addiction by trying this Jalapeno Mesquite Boiled Peanuts Recipe– after you draw the curtains and send the kids to bed, of course. ;)


Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease join us tomorrow to read our newest breakfast recipe on HuggingtheCoast.Com, Italian Farmhouse Eggs on Rosemary Fry Bread.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast Forward

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