It’s funny what you think about — and remember.
I was driving down the road the other day and Macon came wafting across time and space and landed right in the midst of my memory. For the record, Macon is the hottest place on earth in August and always has been.
I used to love to go to Macon. My Aunt Nell and Uncle Glenn lived there, and visiting them was a special treat. Aunt Nell was one of the sweetest people who ever drew breath, and Uncle Glenn had been a tail-gunner in World War II. We always made a day of our visits, and it was quite a day. Daddy would always time the trip so that we would be in Jackson for lunch at Fresh Air Barbecue. I still time an awful lot of my trips so that I will be at Fresh Air Barbecue for lunch.
Visiting with Aunt Nell and Uncle Glenn meant that I would get to be around my cousins, Mike, Gary and Ronnie, who were some of the smartest people in our family. They were older than me, and I thought they were as close to being “television” kids as anyone I had ever met. They talked like kids I saw on TV — like Wally and Beaver — and not like me or my friends. I think they all were valedictorians at Willingham High and Mike, the youngest, won the state spelling bee one time.
All of the kith and kin aside, the other reason I loved going to Macon, especially this time of year, is because whenever we did, we got to visit the State Farmer’s Market. I know they have one in Forest Park, but we never went there. We did go to the one in Macon, however, and when we did, my daddy bought me a bag of boiled peanuts. He would buy a bag for me and a bag for everyone else in the family, and I learned to love boiled peanuts at an early age, thanks to those visits to Macon.
Boiled peanuts are one of the special bonuses God gives us, along with the privilege of being born Southern. Most Yankees I meet just don’t understand how delicious and delectable goober peas can be, and some Northerners — maybe most — even turn up their noses at the sweet salted legumes, steeped in boiling water. That’s OK. More for me.
I never got over my love for boiled peanuts and seldom go a week without them, at least when I am home, and they are available. You can boil peanuts year-round, understand, but this time of year you can get green ones, right out of the rich Georgia dirt. Green peanuts don’t have to be cooked as long and are more tender than dried peanuts, so this is the golden season.
You can buy boiled peanuts in cans, but don’t. Canning boiled peanuts gives them a bad name. It’s a lot like eating instant grits. Just say no. You really need to be careful buying peanuts from crockpots in convenience stores, too. Chances are those are just canned peanuts that somebody poured in hot water to fool you. It is always best to buy your peanuts from a grizzled old man with a big pot and a hand-painted sign, right on the side of the road. There was a time when I would have specified that the pot had to be a big black one, that would double for Brunswick stew during hog killing time, but things change, and aluminum pots and propane gas burners are quite acceptable nowadays.
My favorite peanut-cooker was Ben Evans who ran produce stands around Rockdale County for a hundred years. I have spent a thousand Saturdays sitting with Ben at his produce market, enjoying his company and solving the problems of the world. I’d give anything to spend one more. My life hasn’t been as enjoyable since he’s been gone, and I haven’t had boiled peanuts as good as the ones he cooked. I am thankful that he shared his technique with me, however, and the ones I prepare on my stove at home will do in a pinch.
Yeah, it’s funny what you think about — and remember.
Macon and my Digby cousins and Fresh Air barbecue and boiled peanuts and Ben Evans. I thank God for those memories.
Could somebody pass the salt? I think these peanuts I’m cooking need just a touch more.