Mobile, our home of sweet lunacy, has turned over a new leaf. Or a new nut, that is.
Y’all remember that local denizen, The Peanut Man, who lurked underneath the shade of the Government Street oaks for so many years hawking his roasted nuts to passersby? Well, now Mobilians have the Peanut Guy, and his nuts ain’t too shabby either.
Oh, but these aren’t the roasted variety that can sometimes leave us with the dreaded cottonmouth. This guy’s are boiled and truly delicious. All cultures across the country tend to cultivate their own local thing, their own street food fave. In the dirty South, we enjoy strip malls overflowing with crawdads, roadside satsuma stands and of course, the back-road boiled peanut. And lucky for Mobile, the Peanut Guy knows his goobers!
The Arachis hypogaea is a member of the legume family and known to grow all over the world. Archeologists claim peanuts were being enjoyed 7,600 years ago by our peanut-loving ancestors. So history is definitely on our side here. Let’s take our own George Washington Carver, the original Peanut Man of Tuskegee fame, who took the lowly peanut and devised hundreds of ways to use and eat it.
Our farmers in the U.S. of A. tend to grow four types: the Spanish, Runner, Virginia and the Valencia. So what style of goober does the Peanut Guy hawk, you might ask? According to the man himself, the only nut allowed to enter his boiling cauldron on wheels is the sweet Valencia! And ONLY the Valencia, by God! A purist at heart no doubt. He would never blaspheme the goober with an imposter nut for the boil. His pride and experience is evident in his ability to take a raw, green goober and turn it into a culinary delight.
All hail the mighty nut, Mobile, and take a Saturday jaunt over to the corner of Cottage Hill and Demetropolis and add this boiled peanut to your list of Mobile’s must-try foods. Straight up or the Cajun spiced, try them either way with an ice-cold sudsy beverage and you will not be disappointed.
As the great “Peanuts” truth-seeker Charlie Brown once said, “In the Book of Life, the answers aren’t in the back.” But maybe some answers are buried just under the surface, if we dig a little … right next to the peanut.