A good friend e-mailed me from India , reminiscing about peanuts and the joy of eating them . The very next day , my wife and I were invited for Sunday brunch at the house of another good friend, an ex-armyman, and were served what he called fauji moongphalli ( military peanuts) —roasted peanuts mixed with chopped onions , diced green and yellow peppers , aachari masala, mustard oil and lemon juice . My friend Vinod told me they go well with drinks and I believe him ; they were delicious.
Two such happenings so close together started me thinking about peanuts and convinced me I should write a post about them. Here goes.
My first peanut experience was with the itinerant street vendors in India who carry their wares in a basket suspended from their necks . The basket contains roasted chickpeas ( chana jor garam ) and roasted peanuts , kept hot by means of a clay pot containing live coals which nestles among their wares. I was never interested in the chick peas but the peanuts were a favorite of mine . Large , salty and shelled, they had a papery red husk. Served piping hot in paper cones, they were scrumptious.
Since then , I must have tasted a dozen different types of peanuts in the U.S.
Salted- in- the- shell peanuts remind me of The Haberdashery in Kansas City Mo.where they used to be served as a bar snack. The Haberdashery,a bar in the Radisson Muelbach Hotel, was named for favorite son , Harry Truman , who grew up in K.C and went on to become one of America’s greatest presidents . Before he got into politics , Truman used to work in a clothes store (or haberdasher’s) ; hence the name. Anyway , The Haberdashery featured large bowls of these peanuts to be enjoyed gratis by bar patrons . The peanuts tasted great but part of the charm was the naughty thrill of throwing the shells on the floor. As the shells accumulated , later arriving patrons would tread on the shells on their way to the bar , thus making a most satisfying crunch.
There is a satisfaction to shelling peanuts which I can’t quite explain . I suppose it keeps our hands busy and slows down the intake . Whatever the reason, most of us like our peanuts unshelled. Of the unshelled variety , my other favorites are the garlic peanuts available in Chinese stores. The garlic flavor doesn’t seem strong at first but , after a while … phew!! Boiled in the shell peanuts I am not too fond off though I know many people love them .
In Chinese groceries one can also get roasted peanuts which are larger and harder than their American cousins. The nearest thing to them are the Virginia peanuts , which are similarly large but not as hard. The peanuts that Costco sells are not bad either.
Writing about peanuts reminds me of Beer Nuts which used to be a favorite snack during my college days . The roasted , glazed peanuts ” slightly salty, slightly sweet” are still available , though not as prominent as they used to be . Where they once were unique , they now vie for shelf space with the honey roasted nuts ( peanuts , almonds and cashews ) of other manufacturers, notably Planters and Eagle. I don’t remember seeing Beer Nuts at the local Stop N’ Shop but I can’t imagine they are not there . I must look for them next time I go shopping .
There are many flavored peanuts on the market . There are chocolate covered peanuts ,honey roasted peanuts, M& M milk chocolate coated peanuts, wasabi peanuts , butter toffee peanuts , Firehouse nuts ( flavored with smoked habanero powder),” French Burnt ” peanuts, ” Boston Baked Beans “, yogurt coated peanuts, spicy peanuts ( Korean ) and masala peanuts ( Indian ).They also come in Ranch , nacho cheese , sour cream and onion , Buffalo, cinnamon, coconut , margarita , pina colada, raspberry, and apple cinnamon flavors… and that’s by no means all of them . I’m not even going to get into the subject of homemade peanut recipes of which there are an infinite variety.
I love the honey roasted peanuts and dry roasted peanuts ( anytime) and the wasabi peanuts, the masala peanuts and the yogurt coated peanuts ( some of the time ) but as for the rest … no , thank you. I might try them just to see what they’re like but no more than that . Peanuts are great as they are ; why mess with perfection ? Give me dry roasted , salted peanuts or honey roasted peanuts with my beer and I’m happy as can be.
Peanuts are the cheapest of nuts and figure prominently in the food of many countries. They are a good source of protein and it is no surprise to see that they are heavily cultivated in China and India. China produces almost 6 times as much peanuts as the U.S , India three times as much. If it hadn’t been for the fact that so many Americans are allergic to them I guess our production and consumption would have been higher.
As for peanut butter , I can take it or leave it but for my nephew it was a life-saver in his formative years . He’s quite the gourmet now but until the age of ten or twelve , he seemed to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I like the combination of sweet and salty but the gummy texture is something I could do without . I was chagrined to read about a certain doggie treat , a peanut butter coated snack for dogs . I’m fond of dogs myself and I know dogs are man’s best friend and all that but this seems to me just a bit decadent. Whatever will they think of next ?