My father loved peanuts. Salted in the shell & generous shmears on saltines. Spanish in the can were a special treat. Peanut aroma dominates my memories of bedtime hugs, family camping trips to Dinkey Creek, Saturday afternoons around our SoCal pool. My mother was constantly (with some exasperation) cleaning up random bits of peanut shell & skin from wherever Russell had most recently consumed his frequent legume feast. This obsession didn’t translate into votes though – my father couldn’t abide Jimmy Carter even though he was the most famous peanut farmer since Thomas Jefferson.
When I was 11, I wrote a report about George Washington Carver. There’s no doubt this was my father’s idea. Even at that young age, this project was a revelation to me – both about people who’d survived slavery, & about Mr. GWCarver ‘s ability to be so incredibly dedicated to the potential of the lowly peanut & to the farmers whom he encouraged to grow this versatile little legume.
Arachis hypogaea, suspected to be native to northern South America but with close relatives (Bambara groundnuts) in Western Africa (more evidence of continental drift if you ask me…) is a very interesting kind of plant which starts growing its bean pods above ground then the pods droop down & finish up their seedpod development underground (wow…isn’t evolution fantastic?!…this plant survival strategy is called geocarpy by the way). These peanut plants pack a lot of protein (about 25% by weight) into their nicely-sized-for-human-consumption seeds (a.k.a goober peas). China leads the world in goober pea production (42% in 2009) & nearly half of U.S. peanut production is in Georgia.
The other day I made a West African roasted cauliflower & carrot dish in honor of a Kasese, Uganda Friendship Delegation to our fair city (I know, Uganda’s in East Africa but this recipe looked yummy) – a key feature was a peanut tomato sauce & it was fantastic! We never ate anything like this when I was 11 – I’m not sure my grilled-hamburger-&-green-beans dad would’ve appreciated using peanuts as a cooking ingredient…you never know though.
& what I really what to know is…do you, sometimes in the late evening, when maybe supper was a nice bowl of homemade soup, maybe you’re on your own & you’re trying to keep it simple & low-carb, do you (sometimes) feel the urge to grab a small, heirloom (just for fun) teaspoon & dip it into that almost empty Adams only-roasted-peanuts-&-salt jar of yummy peanut butter for a slow, satisfying slurp?? Uh huh…I know I’m not the only one. No doubt, peanut butter (along with maple syrup) could be a gift from the gods (if there were any…but no need to go there at the moment…)
…anyhow! Peanuts also give us peanut oil, a fundamental ingredient in Asian/Indian cooking, & sadly too, sometimes serious allergies, probably due to fungi. My daughter Z’s nickname for our grandson is ‘Peanut’, paying homage to that sweet little newborn face peeping out from tightly-wrapped swaddling blankets.
Yeah, peanuts are a big part of my life & memories of my dad. Enjoy that little spoonful of goober butter &, just this once, please – don’t feel guilty.