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CLAUDIA KOUSOULAS
Boiled Peanuts


We always said we'd stop, then kept right on going. It would rain or the compulsion of the highway made us believe we didn't have time. But as we meandered through the Florida Panhandle, heading for Wakulla Springs we were forced to slow down, and finally got slow enough to buy a dollar bag of boiled peanuts.

Anything sold by the side of the road, or better yet, from the corner of a gas station parking lot is bound to be good. Good in the way that is real and strange and maybe a little scary. Boiled peanuts can be scary. They come tied up in two plastic bags, packed in a dark pot liquor that
has the color of swamp. A vivid imagination might liken them to insects. They are definitely not vacuum packed and labeled with a top-hatted peanut man. The Lee Brothers say you can't eat boiled peanuts in the car, they're too messy. It would be like eating a steamed lobster in the car and we're just yuppie enough to care about the upholstery.

We saved ours to eat at the spring and afterwards I wanted a shower. Boiled peanuts are wet and slippery and peeling them out of their carapaces gets bits of shell and salt and liquid under your fingernails.

But they're good. They're smoothly salty and crunchy soft with an almost vegetable flavor that falls somewhere between roasted peanuts and edamame. We sat on a bench at the side of the spring, with the bag between us, legs apart to let the juices drip onto the dirt. We ate and looked on the spring's high water that prevented swimming ("Can't see the alligators,' said the park ranger, never mind that the water looked and smelled like tar). We crowed when we got a shell that held three nuts and lamented when they slipped out of our fingers. Afterward we walked over to the 1930s, Mediterranean-style visitor center and had root beer floats and a ginger flip (ginger ale, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry - innocence and decadence in
one glass).

Later we were rewarded for slowing down. Karma and a good map led us to a clear spring within sight of the Suwanee River. From the diving platform above the boil the view was straight down to the mullet and another sensation was added to the day - a heart-skipping cold plunge and
the slow fading of goose bumps as the sun set and the park shuttered.

It was time to get on the road again, but we had learned a valuable lesson. Slow down and taste the boiled
peanuts.
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Boiled Peanuts
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