Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Peanut

Peanuts don't get no respect. It occupies a lowly position on the nut totem pole. You won't find it in "Deluxe" nut mixes. In the English language, the word is slang for a small or insignificant person. Getting paid peanuts means getting very little money - possibly only enough to afford peanuts - the cheapest nut.

Here's a case in point. A can of Planters mixed nuts that claims to have “less than 50% peanuts”.

It would seem the folks at Planters don't think very highly of the peanut.

The claim itself gives interesting insights into how the marketing mind works: “Customers dislike peanuts, so the only hope we have of selling this product is if we limit how much goes in the can.” Fair enough, but why do they then turn around and pad up to half the can with the unwanted nut? Jackasses!

Why does the peanut get the bum’s rush in the nut world? You won't find the answer here.

That's because the peanut is my favorite legume. Ferran Adria once said, “Remember a very good peanut is always preferable to a not that good lobster”. He didn’t actually say that, but I think you know the point I'm trying to make.

Granted, the average peanut you find on the grocery store shelves doesn’t do the peanut justice. Ever since I ate some salted peanuts served on a Malaysia Airlines flight (of all places), I was smitten by the humble goober pea. The peanuts were large and crunchy, and tasted so good I was convinced they spiked it with MSG.

It was a culinary awakening - we've all had those before, right? It's an experience that is difficult to describe. I want to say it's like losing one's virginity, but that sounds salacious and that's not what I'm about, man.

Maybe it's like... see if I can illustrate with a story... You've just come back from summer vacation, and that frumpy girl you've known since junior high has transformed into one hot chick. Her braces are gone, she's traded her glasses for contacts and you catch sight of her tossing her long silky tresses carelessly, hither and thither and hither again. She beckons you over and as you sit close to her, she made no effort to move away, already a good sign. She reaches into her backpack with one hand, and takes your hand with the other and and places something in it and whispers in your ear, "I think it's time we start to spice things up". OMG! a bottle of Naga Bhut Jolokia hot sauce! Hello! At one million Scoville units, the Naga Jolokia is only the hottest pepper on earth! You almost wet yourself with joy.

From that moment on, the Planters nuts I had accepted as the "goober standard" could no longer cut it. My tastebuds have been liberated. I had to find some better nuts, and on these pages, I will share my trials and triumphs with you, dear reader. I hope some of you will join me in my quest.

Enough talk. Let’s crack open a can of nuts and get this party started!

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