Friday, November 14, 2008

Boiled Peanuts and Beer

Every region has its delicacies that may be considered odd by outsiders. In New England, we have moose meat. Fiddlehead ferns. Whoopie pies. 

In Georgia, one favorite is boiled peanuts. Yes, I mean peanuts in their shells bobbing in liquid. I'll bet you're thinking, "yuck." Convenience stores sell them next to the coffee and the steamed hot dogs.  Today I found a roadside stand in Rabbittown. The gentleman running the stand kindly posed for me before dispensing a sample.

The shells are soft, but the peanuts inside are firm and chewy, not crunchy. Tasty.  A little salty due to the ham hocks he throws into the water. He starts the twelve hour process inside on a range then brings them out to steep over a wood fire for the final three or four hours. 

According to, a great regional food site, green peanuts, i.e. not roasted, are used. They are only available from May through November, the peanut season. The first recorded instance of boiling peanuts was during the Civil War, when food supplies ran short. The soldiers found that peanuts boiled in salt lasted up to seven days and make a protein-rich ration. They even wrote a song, "Goober Peas."

In the winter, the boiled peanut man deep fries peanuts, too. Those should be interesting.

Now to another interesting topic, beer. Like the great state of New Hampshire, which makes money on alcohol sales while spending many resources on finding drunk drivers, Georgia has a convoluted relationship with booze. This state still has happy hour and from five to seven at night, you can get 1/2 price drinks. But only the 12 oz. draft beer is half price, not the 32 oz.   (32 oz.--it's almost too big to pick up)  New Hampshire does allows happy hour but until recently bars weren't allowed to advertise them. Very strange.

Last night, we went out to a great little place, A.J.s. You can build your own hot dog (they're huge) with a dozen condiments, and at happy hour, the wings are $.40 each. We arrived at quarter to five. Only about eight people were there. But at five on the dot, the start of happy hour, the place was swamped. For our $12 we had four-five beers (in all) and a serving of wings big enough for two. Not bad.

Georgia doesn't allow liquor, beer or wine sales on Sundays. But the bars are open. Over the past two years, the issue has been hotly debated in the Georgia House and Senate, with many opposing it on religious grounds. One senator questioned the sponsor's religious faith. You'd never see that particular argument in New Hampshire, I believe. Opponents feel passage would "encroach" on the Lord's day, while proponents point to lost tax revenues for the state, pointing to those who cross the Alabama line on Sundays for booze. Right now there is an online petition to garner support for the measure. It looks like a state-wide referendum may be used as a politically expedient way to settle the issue. 

Speaking of blue laws, some counties in Tennessee are "dry." This means no sales of alcohol at all, any time. Last year we visited the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We like Jack Daniels and were fascinated by the fact that a thirteen-year-old started the business--after he learned the distilling technique from a preacher. In the museum, we saw exhibits explaining the multi-step process and naturally, after all that, we were longing to try a fresh shot. 

We wandered down to town, just a couple of blocks away, and scanned the square for a tavern or even a restaurant. Nope. Nothing but cafes and diner-type places, and not many of those. It was a hot and beautiful day--about 80 degrees--and there were dozens of motorcycles parked around the square. We asked one gentleman where we could get a cold beer and a shot of Jack and he replied, "Not here. This is a dry county. They make it down in the holler over yonder, but you can't buy it here." What a missed opportunity. How well would a Jack Daniels steakhouse do? And they'd sell it by the barrel in the gift shops. 

The county line was ten miles away so we headed out. But we still get a chuckle when we remember him saying, "dry county" in his deep Southern drawl. 

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