I like peanuts, especially the honey roasted ones the airlines (still) offer passengers. I like peanut butter more than I do whole peanuts. I eat peanut butter almost every day – on a banana, sandwich, crackers, apple, celery, or even with a spoon. However, it wouldn’t bother me if I never ate another whole peanut again. Actually, I’d miss them in a Snickers candy bar. Southerners love peanuts. I’m proud to say that my city is home to the renowned Cromer’s P-nuts Inc., where you can buy fresh roasted peanuts that are “guaranteed worst in town.”
The food culture in the South can be peculiar to us Northerners, but nothing is quite as bewildering as the Southern penchant for hot boiled peanuts. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw someone eating hot boiled peanuts. They’re in the shells. They’re wet and slimy, like slugs or raw oysters. They’re eaten much like raw oysters, too. You pop the shell open, slurp the juice down and then roll the nuts onto your tongue. That’s what I’ve witnessed. I refuse to eat them.
The worst part about hot boiled peanuts is that consumers simply toss the empty shells on the ground. I don’t know why that’s acceptable, but it is. I realize they’re biodegradable, but look under the bleachers of any outdoor sporting venue and you’ll see piles of discarded shells still not composted between events.
They’re sold everywhere down here: retail shops, roadside stands, off the backs of trucks, and at outdoor events. I’m surprised the Boy Scouts don’t sell them door to door. The S.C. General Assembly designated hot boiled peanuts as the state snack in 2006. That was signed into law by former Gov. Mark Sanford, arguably South Carolina’s biggest goober.
George Washington Carver, probably the foremost expert on the peanut, cooked peanuts in dozens of recipes. I wonder if he ever imagined the lowly peanut would become a regional obsession. Me? I’m sticking with peanut butter.