More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Boiled Peanuts

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 17, 2017, 9:34 a.m.

This weekend I have in my possession one of those foods that Southerners consider delicacies and those from other places dismiss as gross, tasteless, backward, and lacking in redeeming value, social or otherwise.

Boiled peanuts.

I don’t often buy them. I prefer to, uh, boil them myself. I am a certified boiled-peanuts chef. I once studied under my grandfather, who ran a grocery store. Grocery stores were once the centers of boiled-peanuts learning.

On one of those rare days when the produce department at Bi-Lo has an availability of green peanuts – ripe ones won’t work – I greedily scoop a weekend’s supply into one of those cellophane bags that take five minutes to unfold, and head home a happy man.

By Monte Dutton

Occasionally, I buy some boiled peanuts at a baseball game. I rather like the Cajun-spiced ones. In general, though, my problem with “store-bought” boiled peanuts is that they are soggy. It’s one of those natural consequences of modernity. The sublime boiled peanuts of my youth were ruined by plastic bags.

Dutton’s Grocery — which inexplicably had Dutton’s Market on the sign after Granddaddy painted the whole outside in a combination of bright and pale orange, oh, in about 1969 or ’70, thereabouts — sold boiled peanuts. In those days, they were sold in small, tan paper bags. If soggy peanuts were placed in those bags, the bottoms fell out. Hence, we had to drain the peanuts before we bagged them.

Granddaddy would get on one side of a huge vat of boiling peanuts, grasp a handle with one gloved hand and place the other under the vat, while I, oh, 12 years old or so, would do the same on the other side. We then hoisted the container and dumped its contents into a basin in the store’s back room, the same location where chickens were chopped, bologna sliced and steak cubed.

Scalding was a possibility. That never stopped us. Neither of us, nor anyone else who worked there, ever got scalded, at least not during my youth.

We let the peanuts cool and drain for a few hours. Then I sat on a high stool in front of the basin and proceeded to bag the peanuts. They were arranged on a cardboard beer flat and placed on the counter, with several reinforcement flats stored in “the cooler” which was one of two refrigeration units, one out front and the other adjoining the back room. As a general rule, the outside cooler contained reinforcements of watermelons and the inside one contained reinforcements of beer.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

It is my recollection that a bag of boiled peanuts, at about the turn of the ‘70s, cost slightly less than a pack of cigarettes and slightly more than a Coke. Twenty-five cents.

I still prefer my boiled peanuts drained. They aren’t as messy. Salty water doesn’t leave stains on the front of the shirt. They taste better, or maybe that’s because it’s the way they tasted when I was but a lad.

Those from the non-boiled-peanut states sound almost exactly the way those from the non-grits states sound.

I don’t get it. They’re tasteless. So bland.

My answer is the same. You like potatoes? They’re tasteless, too, until you slather them in butter, salt and pepper, and/or ketchup.

Besides, my buds don’t taste for anyone but themselves.

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Me and Granddaddy, Running ‘The Store’

It's been quite a while since I was in the grocery-store bidness.
It’s been quite a while since I was in the grocery-store bidness.

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:45 a.m.

When I was growing up, I worked at my grandfather’s grocery store at 410 West Main Street, here in Clinton. B.M. – that’s Braxton Montgomery Dutton, Jr., son of “Papa Dut” and “Mama Kitty,” neither of whom I ever knew – left me with many funny stories. He was “B.M.” when he was serious, “Brack” when he wasn’t and “Granddaddy” all the time to me. On one side, I had Granddaddy and Granny. On the other were Papa and Mama. Early in my life, I had a great-grandfather named Pa Pa.

I don’t think the Internet and text messages have changed this Southern tradition of individualizing relatives. Alex, my great-nephew, has a full flow chart of Daddy, Mommy, Pop, Gramps, Unc, Meemaw and Pawpaw. I can’t distinguish all of them, but it’s only important that he can.

Here’s a lesson from Granddaddy: “Don’t let your opinion get in the way of your business.”

Granddaddy despised a certain gentleman who was a member of Clinton City Council. This would have been a surprise to the alderman, as members of City Council were then called. He thought him and B.M. were tight. Actually, Granddaddy would do almost anything to avoid him. Perhaps it wasn’t really hatred. Granddaddy just thought the alderman boring and hated to waste time talking to him. Both he and my grandfather are long dead, but for the purposes of this story, we’ll call him “Harvey.” He looked a little like an eight-foot-tall rabbit, only with suspenders. In fact, Harvey was sort of a cartoon character all his own.

One summer afternoon, my grandfather suddenly panicked.

“Good Godamighty, old Harvey’s across the street at Yarborough’s,” he said. “He’ll be over here before you know it. Tell him I’m gone to the farm.”

In the back of Dutton’s Market was a very hot room where the motors that ran the cooling system resided. (There were two “coolers,” built like bank vaults, the one on the inside mainly stacked with beer and the one on the outside with produce.) Granddaddy probably should have chosen the cooler instead of the makeshift “heater.” I’m fairly sure it was at least 110 degrees in that room.

Meanwhile, I was up front, behind the counter, dealing with “Harvey.”

“Where’s ol’ Brack?” he asked, popping the top off a “Small Coke” and opening a bag of boiled peanuts.

(I just realized I have to make up a last name, since I would never have called an alderman by his first name.)

“I think he went to the farm, Mr. [Pickens]. He’ll probably be out there a while.”

“Well,” would-be Harvey Pickens said. “I reckon I’ll just wait for him a while. Ain’t seen him in some time.”

“Imagine that,” I said.

Mr. Pickens talked and he talked. He fondled a few vegetables, making the comment that some of the cabbage was starting to look “right rough.” He finished off the boiled peanuts and “dipped” himself a cone of soft ice cream.

He lingered about one third as long as it seemed.

“Well, I got to get back to politicking,” he said, leaving a stack of cards on the counter and handing me a dollar bill as if it were a tip instead of seven cents less than he owed. “Tell Brack I’ll be to see him here directly.”

I waited for the lanky old codger to pull away in his Buick, gave it a couple minutes, and told Granddaddy the coast was clear.

I can see him now, nearly 32 years after he passed away and probably 40 since it happened. Granddaddy was wearing one of those thin dress shirts, made out of nylon or something else synthetic, that was hard to wear without the sweat running through, anyway. It was supposed to be burnt orange, but saturated in Granddaddy’s sweat, it was a dripping maroon. Granddaddy looked as if he’d just climbed out of the Lydia Mill pool, which would’ve been just as ridiculous an image as him standing in the middle of his store, leaving a puddle of sweat when he moved.

“Mr. Pickens left these cards,” I said.

Granddaddy took the cards – “Vote Harvey D. Pickens, Alderman, Ward 3″ – and threw them into the air. He whirled around. In front of the cash register was a short-lived shower of confetti. (If only I’d had an iPhone.)

“I’m going to the farm,” B.M. said, leaving me to clean up the mess.