I brake for boiled peanuts.
You can, too, more than 7300 feet above sea level along Montana’s Beartooth Highway. Come see me this summer in Silver Gate, Montana, right outside the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park.
While I was growing up in central Georgia, Sunday drives in the country were always accompanied by boiled peanuts bought from a roadside stand. Usually the sign read “Boiled P’nuts,” often with the “S” backwards. Back in the car, windows rolled down, I couldn’t crack the salty snacks fast enough. Coke in a can washed them down, and I threw the shells out the window as we cruised past pecan orchards and chicken warehouses.
Today I own and operate an art gallery, fly shop, southern BBQ joint and boiled peanut stand in Silver Gate, population 13. Winter rages for nine months of the year, but after Memorial Day explorers from all over the world converge on the crown jewel of our national parks.
Just a bit outside Yellowstone’s northeastern gate is my sign: “Boiled P’nuts.” Southerners can’t believe their eyes. A little bit of home-to-go, only $3 a bag. Europeans are curious but usually love them after one bite. (One kid from southern Poland thought the perfect combo was a bag of the goobers and a Moose Drool beer.) Midwesterners, on the other hand, are grossed out.
Boiled peanuts, also known as goober peas, have been a Southern tradition for decades. Confederate soldiers, who had little else to eat at the end of the Civil War, even sang about them:
Sitting by the roadside on a summer’s day
Chatting with my mess-mates passing time away
Lying in the shadows underneath the trees
Goodness how delicious eating goober peas.
Peas, peas, peas, peas
Eating goober peas
Goodness how delicious
Eating goober peas.
When a horse-man passes, the soldiers have a rule
To cry out their loudest, ‘Mister, where’s your mule?’
But another custom, enchanting-er than these
Is wearing out your grinders, eating goober peas.
Just before the battle, the General hears a row
He says ‘The Yanks are coming, I hear their rifles now.’
He looks down the roadway and what d’you think he sees?
The Georgia Militia cracking goober peas.
I think my song has lasted just about enough.
The subject’s interesting but the rhymes are mighty rough.
I wish the war was over so free from rags and fleas
We’d kiss our wives and sweethearts, say good-bye to goober peas.
Today the peanuts are hot in Montana, the snow is melting, bison are feeding, and travelers are glad to have a bag of Goober Peas for their ride into Yellowstone. If you can’t make it to Silver Gate, here’s a simple boiled peanut recipe for a crockpot:
Fill the container ¾ of the way with raw green peanuts, pour 1/3 to ½ cup of salt over the top and then fill with water. Start the process with the device on high. The peanuts will soak up a generous portion of water in the first three hours. After a few hours add more water and stir well, folding the nuts on top to the bottom. Next, turn the cooker down to low, let cook approximately 12 hours until you have a soft nut inside the shell resembling a salty black-eyed pea.
Then all you have to do is enjoy them just like we do at 7389 feet.