There is a Southern specialty that for some reason has not found the popularity and omnipresence that is so surely deserves. It is found most often in rural gas stations, across Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama. But it deserves a place at the bar. At every bar that serves beer, in fact. For there is no greater friend to beer than this delicious, salty, crunchy snack. As much as we regret to say this, it is NOT the pork rind or cracklins. It is… the peanut… but not just any peanut! Yes, the roasted peanut is a rich and grand thing, the boiled peanut is beautiful and bewitching, but the deep fried peanut, “shell-n-all”? THAT is the South’s greatest beer snack.
The first time one encounters a deep fried peanut, the initial temptation is to crack the shell open and free the peanuts from bondage. That would be a mistake. Once you’ve overcome your fears of the shell, accepted that maybe you should try just one since the bag proclaims “so good… you can eat ’em SHELL-N-ALL,” your mouth will soon tell you that you’ve made a wise choice. The crisp crunch of the shell and the saltiness and spice that have infused it hit your tastebuds first. Then the toasty, nutty goodness of the peanuts themselves layer on another wave of joy. And what could possibly follow that wave of joy other than a sip (or a gulp) of a cold beer? Like peanut butter and jelly, moon pies and RC cola, deep fried peanuts and beer are a match made in Southern heaven.
So, next time you’re off on a rural highway and stop for gas, be sure to check inside for the presence of this delicacy, then buy as many bags as your car will hold. You can thank “Uncle Bud” of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee for producing these wonders, or his rivals, Jerry of Polkville, North Carolina, or Bobby Salter of the one and only Plains, Georgia. And ask your favorite barkeeps to do the world a favor and bring some deep fried peanut goodness into the lives of their patrons. And they will thank you.
By the way, the basic salted, deep fried peanuts can also act as a blank canvas of sorts for adding your own spices. Simply heat up some oil and the spice mixture of your choice in a skillet and toss in some deep fried peanuts, mix well, drain on a paper towel, and you’re set. Here’s a not-so-Southern batch with chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorns, equally good with an IPA or a good German Riesling!