On my drive today, I began noticing road-side stands for boiled peanuts. More than one sign shortened the name to “P-nut”, which seems to be a preferred spelling for most vendors. Even when the sign was very large and the print very small.
I stopped for gas between Savannah and Florida, and noticed a huge pot spewing steam beside the building. With a sign. Not with the “P-nut” spelling of other road-side stands, but I was quite sure a relative.
Even though I had sworn not to get sucked into eating gas station food, this seemed a reasonable and fascinating local exception, and I went in, fully intended to buy and try some.
This was my second attempt to enjoy this local delicacy.
In Savannah, I almost ordered some as an appetizer, but Marty, who sat beside me, talked me out of it, suggesting oysters instead. She described them as slimy, and she was comparing them to oysters, so it wasn’t hard to let go of my resolve. Especially with an abundance of other choices. It looked like I was getting another chance.
But I was foiled again. The Boiled P-Nut bin was half empty.
The half that was full contained Cajun P-nuts, which the young woman said would burn the hair off my head, and even most the local men preferred the salted ones. The empty side had contained the “regular” kind, which had sold out, and a second batch was indeed boiling outside as we spoke. I would wait it out, and keep my hair.
I preceded to perplex (and possibly torture) the poor young woman with the spate of peanut inquiries that preceded to emerge involuntarily from my imagination.
I didn’t know peanuts were green, and that is because they aren’t. Apparently “green” just means not ripe yet. Still crunchy. Like a hard bean, said the girl.
“You just boil the shit out of them for about an hour” she spoke in a drawl that turned “shit” into a three syllable word.
She said you know they are done when you can crack the shell and get the peanut out. And the peanut is soft, like a cooked pinto bean. If it’s crunchy, it’s not done yet. I asked what one does with the shell and she responded that one throws them right on the ground. P-nuts are clearly an outdoor food.
I was also told that people sometimes don’t pronounce the “ed” on the end of boil(ed) … making it Boil P-nuts. Like a command. A verb.
She wasn’t sure why Georgians, and other southerners eat boiled peanuts, but by this evening I was so curious, I couldn’t refrain from doing a little research. I was also so tired, it was dubious research. So, take it with a pot of peanut salt.
Apparently, southerners are thought to have begun eating boil(ed) p-nuts during the civil war when food was in terribly short supply. The salt in the water, and thus in the shell, helped preserve them for a couple days, making them better rations than no rations.
Confederate soldiers were sometimes referred to as “Goober-Grabbers” – goober being a possible twist on an African (Bantu) word for the same legume. They are also sometimes referred to as “pea-goobers.” Goobers have also come to mean “one who is a bit of a numb-skull”
There is also this crazy custom in the south to dump a package of salted peanuts into a COKE BOTTLE, drink the salty Coke, and then eat the soggy, cola-soaked p-nuts. Whoah.
Apparently this is a fond food memory for many southerners. Also completely inconceivable to me. It’s not clear to me if this is still done with any regularity.
Finally, I learned from a questionable and possibly disreputable site on the inter-web, that the boiled green peanut has, in maybe-fact, been made Georgia’s “official” snack food. Who knew there was such a thing? I wonder what other states have made “official”!
On May 1, 2006, Gov. Mark Sanford came to York County and officially signed into law, H.4585, to make the boiled peanut South Carolina’s official state snack food. Tom Stanford, a Winthrop University graduate, came up with the idea in a government class because he likes boiled peanutsCentre for the Study of Southern Culture
At my second gas-stop there was a p-nut station where one could lift a lid and scoop out your own little delights into a soup bowl. My third and final chance of the day for this Canadian to be fully initiated!
I lifted and peeked, letting the salty-eartm steam mingle with the monochromatic hues of the brown soup for a moment. Remembering I hadn’t yet finished the bananas in the van, I smiled in my uniquely Canadian smile and quietly put the lid back.
Three times, no goobers. Which, I’m sure by southern standards, makes me a bit of a goober. Next Time, and I’ll make sure to get the T-shirt.
9 thoughts on “Good Goober!”
Putting salted peanuts in5 -cents cokes bottles was common in Oklahoma in 1950 when I was growing up. However, the peanuts came out of 5-cent Planters package!
I was hoping someone would write about their experience with this! You can read something on the inter-web but you don’t REALLY know it’s true until you hear it from a real person! A 5 cent coke. That’s something to think about lol. Thanks for sharing Bill!
“Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating goober peas.
Goodness how delicious, eating goober peas!”
From the Civil War song, “Eating Goober Peas.” I learned it in elementary school but it was years before I realized it was the boiled peanuts, and not my favorite dried peanuts! I like boiled, too.
My older brother and I grew peanuts one year. We tried to dry them in my mother’s clothes drier. Needless to say, Mom wasn’t happy with us…
Another year, we grew cotton. In southeast Missouri, with some success.
Thinking of you, my kind RTR neighbor. See you next year, if “the good lord is willing, and the crick don’t rise.”
If you check out my FB page, you will see that, “I love boiled peanuts!” is my tagline. I do love them. But I grew up eating them. As I have tried to get many non NW Florida locals to try them over my life, I have found that only about one in ten will like them. But you could be that one, Kit!
I got some in the Florida panhandle, so you might still have a chance! I scooped out mostly regular and some cajun. I’d never had them before, being from Northern NY, but I thought they were great! Earthy and salty. One gas station good worth trying! Even the Cajun if you like spicy at all…
I got my second chance today 😉 Stay tuned Lol
I like some spicy, but not TOO much, plus it was 10 am. It seemed too early for cajun lol
Hi, Kit — I grew up in the south (born in South Carolina, raised in Louisiana) and I had *never* heard of that whole peanuts in the coke thing until pretty recently. It’s either a tradition from LONG ago and no longer done, or just wasn’t part of my particular southern circle growing up. Pretty much grossed me out, too. 😉
Glad to see you back posting. I enjoy the FB posts about CB and the church and all, but enjoy these longer blog posts and “traveling” along with you. Safe travels and have fun!
Hi there Arden! I know… its sort of like I have a bit of split life now ! I’m starting a blog that will be separate from this one, for my farm and church activities. That should make it easier for anyone wanting to follow along 🙂 Yeah, it didn’t seem to be a “now” thing… I was reading an article that it harkens back to a time when Coke was first being sold at gas stations, and so were Boil P-nuts, and voila, the first fast-food!
That’s great to hear you’re also going to do a farm/church blog. I really do like reading about that, too, but FB posts, kinda by definition, are comparatively short and I enjoy your writing, so I’ll look forward to following that blog whenever you get it set up. Safe travels!