Boiled peanuts aren’t glamorous.
They aren’t trendy or novel or Instagrammable. Stewed in murky brown liquid to a soft yet tender, toothsome texture, they’ll inevitably leave you with dirty hands, salt water dripping down to your elbows, piles of spent shells accumulating on the floor or table in front of you. It’s impossible to look elegant while eating boiled peanuts.
Honestly, that’s a large part of their appeal.
Peanuts are a staple of southern cuisine since the late 1800s.
They are actually from South America, but were brought by slave ships to the United States. The soils in Virginia were loamy, cheap and abundant. They also suited the peanuts well. Although initially seen as a food for slaves, livestock and the poor, the Civil War brought rationing to the peanut crop, making it a valuable crop.
It’s unclear why or who started boiling the goobers, but southerners certainly weren’t the first. Boiled Peanuts are a common food in many cultures. Most notably, they’re popular in China, Taiwan, Africa, and other places. In Hawaii, for whatever reason, I first discovered boiled nuts. They were sold in the deli on small styrofoam tray, and they were chilled, then shrink-wrapped.