Salty Southern Delight
Posted Aug. 11, 2021
By Michael DeWitt, Jr.
The other day I bought a bag of boiled peanuts and one of them cute little Cokes in the glass bottle at the Hampton Exxon station and started eating right in the parking lot. But by the time I had reached the Varnville Exxon, less than three miles away, I had to pull over and buy another bag to hold me over until I got home.
Addictive, are they?
Forget the war on drugs, perhaps our government should investigate the addictive powers of the Carolina peanut.
Forget the Lays potato chip slogan, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” How’s this for a slogan: “Bet you and the whole family won’t stop crowding around the steaming pot or slurping them over the sink with a dish towel over your shoulder until the last one is gone and somebody gets a bellyache!” Well, that might be a little lengthy, but you get the idea.
The recipe is simple yet sinfully delicious: peanuts, water and salt. You can buy them by the quart bag or by the peck, or you can spring for a bushel of “green peanuts” and boil them yourself. Occasionally, when I boil nuts at home, I like to do it real slow with the lights down low and the curtains drawn, where I can get naughty and throw in some Tabasco sauce and a ham hock or two.
Try it sometime. When you’re done, your lips are all salty and wet and sticky and burning and you feel like you need to go to church on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night, then visit the cardiologist on Monday. If I feel guilty, I simply ask myself this question, “It’s peanut season: What would Jesus do?” and I quickly feel much better.
The Five Commandments of Boiled Peanuts
Before we go any further, everyone should know that there are a five basic ground rules of cooking boiled peanuts that almost all Southerners agree on, and those who don’t need to move up north and start shoveling snow.
- Boiled peanuts must be made from fresh “green” peanuts; never, ever from dried peanuts that have been soaked in water to rehydrate and then boiled. The difference between eating a boiled green peanut and eating a boiled dried peanut is the like difference between kissing a puppy and kissing a dead puppy.
- Boiled peanuts should be salty. A peanut without salt is like a kiss from your cousin: it ain’t something you go around bragging about.
- Boiled peanuts should be plentiful. Showing up to an event with only one bag of peanuts can break up otherwise happy homes and tear apart entire communities.
- Boiled peanuts should be juicy, and never cooked “al dente.” You should not have to chew a boiled peanut. There should be something to slurp. The act of eating a boiled peanut should make an almost indecent noise when you slurp it out the shell or you might as well feed it to the hogs.
- People who serve others boiled peanuts from a can have no place in God’s Kingdom of Heaven.
Brother vs. brother, nut vs. nut
Around this part of South Carolina, there are two primary brand names in grocery stores everywhere. You can find them in the stands at the church softball diamond, or at the local football field concession stand. You can also find other peanuts cooked on site at area gas stations, or down at the nearest Farmer’s Market. In fact, the local Piggly Wiggly in my hometown recently started boiling their own and cutting out the middle man.
Do you love red-skinned peanuts, or white? Just like Momma taught me to love people of all colors, she taught me to love all types of peanuts without discrimination. Do you like regular peanuts or jumbos? And who has the best boiled peanuts?
In my lifetime, I have eaten a gravity wagon full of boiled peanuts, and though I do have my own personal preference, I dare not speak it here. For in the South, this is a subject that is fraught with heated debate, a subject that has pitted neighbor against neighbor, brother vs. brother, man against wife in heated battles the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Civil War.
Perhaps someone should organize a peanut-boiling competition to put this burning issue to rest once and for all. But it would have to be held at a “safe space” like the local police department, otherwise some disgruntled peanut-eating Baptist might pull a jack knife on some peanut-eating Methodist, or demand satisfaction via a pistol duel at the nearest church social hall.
I would pay good money to watch such an exciting cooking competition—as long as they served plenty of boiled peanuts in the concession stand and had plenty of dry dish clothes to clean up the mess.
Michael M. DeWitt, Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian, an award-winning journalist, columnist and outdoor writer who has been published in South Carolina Wildlife, Sporting Classics, and the author of two books.
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