The cardboard sign on the highway said “Hot Bulled Pee-Nuts.”
I pulled over out of pure instinct. For there are few things I love more than a pee-nut that has been properly bulled.
I parked. I stepped out of my truck and walked toward the smell of steaming Cajun spices. The man boiling peanuts was older, seated beneath an Auburn University tent.
He was dressed in Levis and square-toes. He wore a belt buckle the size of a hubcap. He used a canoe paddle to stir a kettle seated atop a roaring blue propane flame.
Beside him was a 50-pound bag of Sam’s Club salt. He removed handfuls of salt and tossed them into the boiling water like fairy dust. Then he licked his fingers for show.
And the line grew longer.
Soon, there were six of us standing there, on the side of a rural Alabamian highway at noon. We were sweating in the violent heat until our clothes were translucent and our hair was matted.
“He does good peanuts,” said a guy in line.
The man looked as though he had come directly from work. He wore a necktie. His shoes cost more than my truck.
“They’re worth it,” said another woman balancing a baby on her hip. “My husband says his spicy peanuts are the best he’s ever had.”
So we waited. And waited.
Now and then the old man would remove a hot goober pea, crack it open, and sample it. Then he’d spit it out, shake his head, and announce that they weren’t ready yet.
A few kids on BMX bikes showed up. They ditched their cycles and joined the line. And we became 8.
Then a truck with Florida tags stopped. A man and his wife got out and assumed a place in line. And then we were 11.
“First time I ever had a boiled peanut,” said a guy in line,…