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Friday
Feb112011

Peanut Surprise on a Florida Highway

If, my friends, you have never had the pleasure of tasting a steaming, juicy, finger-licking spych popping boiled peanut, then you are missing out on something amazing. Sure, you're wondering if my choice of adjectives and slightly unsettling descriptors was correct.

 

To say that the boiled peanuts I had during my recent trip to Florida were the best thing I ate there would be 100% accurate. Did the consumption of three buffets in two days in any way cloud my stomach's judgment? Absolutely not. Was there a chance that the specific batch I had was sprinkled with a little crack? No, because I had two separate batches on separate days, and that would be very expensive.

 

My brother and I were on a highway, driving around in Florida before a performance we were about to attend. We'd been eating and enjoying exploring a never-touristed area of Florida when I noticed food-themed Burma-shave signs. They were for boiled peanuts, and those signs got my heart racing. I'd forgotten that aside from Miami, Key West, the theme parks, and a few other choice destinations, Florida was not a separate entity of senior citizens trying to forge their own colony, but part of the South. I'd had boiled peanuts once from a can, during a Southern cooking Food Network taping with the Lee brothers. The canned variety was good. Unexpectedly purple and wet, though tasty. I was overjoyed to realize that, here in Florida, I'd be able to taste them the way God intended: Freshly made, steaming, just out of the kettle, and sprinkled with a little bit of southern love. Boiling some old-fashioned goodness

 

We pulled into a small lot right off the highway, where a man had a bunch some steaming pots set up under a small tent. For my $3 I asked for a mix of regular and cajun peanuts, which he poured into a plastic Ziploc bag, then a brown paper bag. We were off.


I broke into those peanuts immediately, which isn't easy when you're driving and trying to break apart something that's still submerged in 180º water. Eventually I succeeded, and tasted the salty, spicy, extremely hot peanuts.

 

Once you start eating these things, you really can't stop. They're made by dumping "green," or ripe (but not yet dried) peanuts into boiling salt water or flavorings. It's a simple recipe, but one I feel I'd manage to mess up. Buying these gems on the side of the road, though? Quite a treat.

 

It truly made driving dangerous, because you're burning your fingers in the hot liquid, breaking open shells, and gnawing at the stuck contents/trying to dump the nutmeats into your mouth while keeping your eyes on the road. My brother agreed that they were delicious but urged me to not get him killed. When a friend joined the next day, we bought another batch of Cajun Spice only (even hotter and spicer this time around) and let him feed his new addiction. Also, the peanut boiler remembered me and said, “God bless you for coming back.” A greatful businessman? Definitely only in the south. Spicy hot goodness


What I'm trying to say is that if you're ever driving along and notice boiled peanuts being sold on the side of the road, do yourself a favor and stop to get a bag. Of all the foods I ate on that trip to Florida, none were as addictive or amazingly satisfying as these little morsels of salty goodness. Just do it.

 

Boiled peanuts:


Sold in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, north/central Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of other states. Looks for small tents or shacks set up on the side of random roads, and indulge.