Born in the North, raised in the South by the grace of God. My family moved to Georgia when I was 7 years old and, within days, I knew I was home. Drawn to the slower pace of life, accents (of which I sadly never had), humidity and the double-edged sword of Southern charm, I knew I was in the right place. But it was soul food that sealed the deal, particularly the fried chicken, coleslaw, mushy string beans and ambrosia salad of church picnics.
Didn't take long for me to get into the more peculiar culinary delicacies of the South: grits, tomato and mayo on white bread, chitlins, pimiento cheese, collards, fried whiting, okra, oxtail. Every one of those dishes warms my soul. I took a silly quiz online that seemed to suggest all this food was weird, but this stuff is like sweet tea to me.
But boiled peanuts? Well, I thought they tasted like hard snot.
Maybe it was the sopping wet paper bags they came in or the foley-worthy smoosh as the shell popped open, but everything about boiled peanuts revolted my senses. Didn't help that my old friend Sarah would buy them canned at gas stations and slurp them during trips in the church van, its salty and slimy sweat mixed with A/C and teenaged B.O. Some scents and memories stick on ya like pecan pie. (I adore pecan pie, fwiw.)
I've lived in Washington, D.C., for 16 years now, far removed from Southern comforts. But my wife and I recently had dinner with a new-ish friend, a Nigerian raised in Tampa Bay. She made a seafood boil over crinkling rice noodles, thoughtfully stewed with aromatics instead of spices so our kiddo could enjoy. Boiled peanuts were also on the stove; I admitted my love for all Southern food except the soft-shelled squish-fest. Her side-eye was strong, but sent us home with a baggie anyway.
Curious, I mashed a shell between my fingers, popped in a peanut and, y'all, decades of disapproval disappeared as the salty squishiness proved far more complex than I remember. The boil brings out the peanut's vegetal state — woody carrot cooked down with baby potatoes. The paper-thin skin, easily flaked off when raw or roasted, embraces the cotyledon with a milky-nut coating. The liquid reserved in the peanut shell acts like oyster brine, recirculating the water source. Deceptively simple, yet divine — you not only taste but experience every nuance of the ingredients, just like many of the Southern foods that make me yearn for home. —Lars Gotrich
P.S.: If you're new here, hi! Viking's Choice got a bunch of new subscribers after my Aquarius Records tribute in the NPR Music newsletter. Typically, this newsletter features short album reviews or essays about whatever, plus a mixtape via BNDCMPR (a playlisting tool using music found on Bandcamp). Hope y'all stick around.
Stream the Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
Cloud Rat, "Cusp"
Desiccation, "Beneath Crumbling Skies of Flesh and Bone"
Alkibar Jr., "Adouna"
Barbie Bertisch, "Water Moves Slowly"
East-West, "Can't Face the Night (Club Mix)"
The Pyramids, "Mogho Naba (King of Kings)"
Mephistofeles, "Tombstone Boogie"
Demus, "Die with Me"
Dry Cleaning, "Don't Press Me"
Emily Robb, "Side B"
Touming Magazine, "Forever"
Chico Sonido, "Ultra Solo Enya"
The Soft Pink Truth, "Is It Gonna Get Any Deeper Than This? (Dark Room Mix)"
Taciturn, "So Stupid"
Sunrise Patriot Motion, "Oil Dream Field"
Marisa Anderson, "Waking"
Horace Tapscott Quintet, "Your Child"
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, "Is It Me Or Is It You?"
Two Shell, "Dust"
Conway The Machine (feat. Goose, Jae Skeese, Shots, 7xvethegenius & SK), "Big Drum"
Locrian, "The Glare is Everywhere and Nowhere Our Shadow"
Eli Winter, "For a Chisos Bluebonnet"
Lumenette, "Wake Up"
The Jazz June, "Scars to Prove"
Thor Harris (feat. Craig Ross, Zola Jesus & Dorian Wood), "Day 447 of Quarantine"
Maria W Horn & Sara Parkman, "Till Margaretha"
Pledge, "Wrong Planet Syndrome"
Rachika Nayar (feat. maria bc), "Heaven Come Crashing"
Dreadnought, "Midnight Moon"