I personally love a good batch of boiled peanuts.
As a child, many long car trips were made more tolerable with a stop at a roadside stand where my dad purchased several large bags of freshly boiled peanuts and a couple bottles of ice cold Coca Cola.
It was a regular routine for our family when we made the pre-interstate trip from Geneva to Lake Wales, Florida — 400 miles that took more than nine hours exclusively on two-lane roads.
The operators of the roadside stands that sold those tasty treats probably followed a simple recipe for boiling the peanuts. It might have gone something like this: They would rinse the batch of green peanuts — freshly harvested — to thoroughly remove dirt, stems, leaves and anything else unwanted in the process. Once done, they would let the peanuts soak in clean, cool water for about 30 minutes before boiling.
The boiling would take place in a large pot. Enough water is added to cover the peanuts by about two inches or more. Then they would add a cup of salt for every gallon of water in the pot. They brought the mixture of salty water to a boil, then let it simmer for four hours or more. They would stir occasionally and taste. They added water as needed to keep the peanuts covered. They checked for taste and texture. The nuts were ready when they had the soft consistency of cooked beans.
I can remember kids and teenagers selling dime-sized bags of boiled peanuts in downtown Geneva. It didn't take long for the pint-sized salesmen to empty their baskets, selling out of the salty treats around lunch time and throughout the summer afternoon. I can hear them now, "Get your boiled peanuts, 10-cents a bag." I can't think of anything selling today for only a dime.
Friends who grew up outside the south have to acquire a taste for boiled peanuts. Sometimes, despite repeated attempts to find the peanuts tasty, these folks just can't do it. A lot of them can't get past the general appearance of the boiled legumes, much less their "mushy" consistency when you crack open the shells and drop the once-firm nuts in your mouth. Lots of peanuts resist being opened with the fingers so you have to put the whole thing in your mouth and use your teeth to do the job.
Did you know there is a strong connection between boiled peanut and the U.S. Civil War?
When Union Gen. William Sherman made his notorious trek through Georgia near the end of the war, southern soldiers started looking for sources of food. That's when they "discovered" boiled peanuts.
When the green peanuts were prepared properly they could last for a several days in the soldiers often empty mess kits. There is only speculation as to where the salt, which was in short supply, came from to add to the boiled peanuts. Imagine living off peanuts and water while trying to fight a war at the same time.
So where did the peanut come from anyway?
Historians say it probably came from South America and was spread through the New World by Spanish explorers who had found out how versatile the lowly peanut could be. In the 1700s and the 1800s the Spaniards were responsible for introducing the peanut to Europe. Other traders took peanuts to Asia and Africa.
Moving ahead to 1919, the folks in Enterprise, Alabama, showed their appreciation to the boll weevil for turning local cotton farmers into peanut growers. In fact they were so grateful that they built a statue, which is still there today, honoring the weevil as a "herald of prosperity" showing the farmers they could prosper growing peanuts.
When I was in grade school, I remember learning about the genius of Tuskegee Institute, Dr. George Washington Carver. Dr. Carver not only recognized the basic value of the peanut as a cash crop but found more than 300 uses for peanuts that ran the gamut from recipes to industrial products.
I was just grateful for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Maybe the folks in Tuskegee will consider a statue to Elvis eating a PB&J sandwich with sliced bananas.
Perhaps we could get Chiquita fruit company to pay for it.