Hard Boiled

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.

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, “I was 10 years old. We just moved here from Iowa, but my dad was originally from Pelham. He stopped at a gas station and got some peanuts for me and said if I could eat only ONE boiled peanut, he’d give me 20 dollars.”

Everyone laughed. Because no red-blooded human could win such a bet.

“I don’t even remember the first boiled peanut I ever tasted,” said another woman. “I grew up in Dothan, the peanut capital of the world. Boiled peanuts were served at my wedding.”

Time droned on. We perspired gaily in the sunlight, awaiting the rapture of peanuts. I was sweating so bad I was squishing in my shoes.

I was thinking about how a few months ago I was in Baltimore, Maryland, for a book event. One morning I went to a farmer’s market and saw a vendor selling peanuts, which got me excited. I love peanuts in all incarnations.

I bought a bag of parched peanuts and asked the guy if he ever boiled his peanuts.

“Boil them?” he said with genuine revulsion. “We don’t do that here, son.”

So I found another vendor at the market selling pecans and peanuts. I asked the same question. “Do you ever boil your peanuts?”

The man scoffed. “Never knew anyone who did that” he said in a strong northern accent. “When I was in Georgia, I tried boiled peanuts once. They were disgusting.”

These unfortunate souls don’t know what they’re missing. I don’t know how boiled peanuts could ever be misconstrued as “disgusting.”

I mean, I could see how someone could think potted meat was somewhat unsavory. Especially if there were no Cheetos around. And I could also understand how someone might find livermush to be untoward. Maybe even pickled quail eggs, hoghead cheese, or scrambled brains. But boiled peanuts?


Boiled peanuts are food fit for company. They are the caviar of the SEC. The escargot of the trailer park. The official hors d’oeuvre of the fundamentalist.

They are the dish my family places on buffet tables for special occasions like birthday parties, baptisms, funerals, infant christenings, and real estate closings. They are the gift my uncle gives at Christmastime, along with smoked mullet dip, and a passle of pig’s feet.

Finally, the old cook sampled a peanut from his vat and ceremoniously declared that the boiled legumes were ready. The people in line almost applauded, but we were too sun-beaten to move.

For $5 bucks the man filled a Ziploc freezer bag to capacity, then sent us on our happy way.

Thus it was, I sat in my front seat, the air conditioner blasting, my truck idling on the highway shoulder. Traffic whizzed by, and I ate culinary heroin. They were so scaldingly hot, the brine burned my tongue and left red welts on my lips. But I didn’t care.

Because there truly is nothing better than a bulled pee-nut.


  1. Steve McCaleb - July 25, 2022 6:57 am

    Absolutely love your take on that most Southern of delights the boiled peanut. I also have a couple of candidates for your “untoward” list…..a sousemeat sandwich and a tin of mustard sardines. Somebody once gave me an excellent recipe for the sardines. Dump them in a small black cast iron pot in peanut oil. Cook them for 1 hour at the hottest temp possible. Allow them to cool and then throw them away and eat the the pot. Tastes somewhat better and the smell is waay better.

  2. Susan Poole - July 25, 2022 6:59 am

    Right you are…and that ain’t no bull. 🥜

  3. Susan H Poole - July 25, 2022 7:14 am

    Ain’t this the truth…and that’s no bull🥜

  4. Harriet White - July 25, 2022 8:29 am

    “The escargot of the trailer park.” Great sentence.

  5. Ed (Bear) - July 25, 2022 8:47 am

    Today’s coolum was bulling over with deliciousness!

  6. Ann Thompson - July 25, 2022 9:17 am

    Fun story. Hope your shoes dried out! Hee hee.

  7. Meg - July 25, 2022 9:54 am

    Sean, you didn’t even mention the superiority of green boiled peanuts. Those small, pink skinned South Georgia/Alabama peanuts fresh from the ground. So superior to the mountain boiled dried peanuts!

    • Deborah Holland - July 26, 2022 1:02 pm

      My brother in law has Holland Farms peanut farm. Fresh from the ground. Most delicious boiled, jumbo peanuts ever. Located between Milton and Jay, Florida, Hwy 178. Anddd, you can sit on the porch and rock in the chairs while you eat them!

  8. mikec4193 - July 25, 2022 10:20 am

    I am not from that part of the country but after reading this I think I might have to make a trip to Alabama and get some “Bulled Pee Nuts”….

    thanks for sharing

    • Karen - July 26, 2022 7:36 pm

      My Pennsylvania born mother-in-law learned to boil them while she lived in South Carolina. They settled in Virginia and she continued the tradition. We continue the tradition. They are delicious.

  9. Donna George-Moskovitz - July 25, 2022 10:51 am

    This cracked me up!

  10. bpdawson20gmailcom - July 25, 2022 10:52 am

    This is a test to see if I’m really connected …

  11. Helena Shirley - July 25, 2022 10:54 am

    I was raised in Ohio, but moved to Alabama in 1977. It wasn’t until Labor Day weekend of 1982 that my boyfriend introduced me to boiled peanuts purchased in Luverne, AL at the Shriner’s World’s Largest Peanut Boil. I was hooked! That boyfriend became my husband in May of 1983. I guess I fell in love when I came under the spell of a true Southern Delicacy.

  12. Debbie - July 25, 2022 11:36 am

    Most popular part of our daughter’s and son’s backyard weddings was the boiled peanut station!

  13. Dia - July 25, 2022 12:17 pm

    Caviar of the SEC….priceless!

  14. Donna from Iowa - July 25, 2022 12:21 pm

    As a northerner I had never had such a revolting appetizer but sitting on the bank of a river with a bag of that delicacy, I changed my mind and often went to the local “boiled peanut” store-especially when Iowans visited to let them know we had become southerners.

  15. biglar48 - July 25, 2022 12:21 pm

    Poor ignorant Yankees . Bless they heart !

  16. Jack Giddens - July 25, 2022 12:24 pm

    This native son of Pike County grew up loving boiled goobers. But the lure of the ocean and U.S. Navy carried me away so I now love in Tennessee where hardly anyone knows the delicacy

    • Jo Henra - July 25, 2022 1:57 pm

      Your column today sure does make me homesick for my beloved South! Born and bred in Troy, Alabama – we used to say Southern babies came out of the womb loving broiled peanuts. I could not imagine anyone not loving them – until I decided to share some with some ladies at our church when we lived in Houston for few years! None of the 10 or so likes them – so just more for me! I wouldn’t even try to share them with the people in Missouri where we now live. Thank you for your way with words! And for bringing up so many memories of the South – how I miss it.

  17. Shirley - July 25, 2022 12:34 pm

    Sorry Sean. Have to disagree with you. I tried boiled peanuts here in Florida. They were like eating mush, cardboard tasting mush that left a horrible after taste. But be glad, for that means there are more for you to eat and savor.

  18. Laura King - July 25, 2022 12:56 pm

    You’ve convinced me to try them again. Being a ‘Yankee”, they have always seemed disgusting. You, sir, make them seem like they aren’t to be missed…

  19. Deb - July 25, 2022 12:56 pm

    Great story! I am one that think boiled peanuts are disgusting. Maybe I just had a one time sample of poorly boiled nuts. I will have to try again but look for the bullet pee nuts. Thanks for the good read.

  20. Cora - July 25, 2022 1:03 pm

    No doubt about it…boiled peanuts are a delicacy. I moved to Oklahoma five years ago and I must say that I miss seeing (and smelling) the local peanut stands that pop up in various parking lots. Eating boiled peanuts always reminds me of my childhood when we checked the peanut fields for mature legumes in anticipation of the Fall harvest. Those first samples of the peanut season were the best!

  21. Ann - July 25, 2022 1:10 pm

    Best I ever had was in Dothan and boiled with jalapeños!!! Oh my. Thought I had died and gone to heaven!

  22. Shana Proctor - July 25, 2022 1:33 pm

    Did the same thing this past weekend! Nothing beats a roadside boiled peanut sign!

  23. Gordon - July 25, 2022 1:39 pm

    Yep-nothing like good ol’ boiled peanuts. My sister boils them the best!! I could eat a bushel of them!

  24. Joe - July 25, 2022 1:40 pm

    Thank you for the best definushon of the Bulled Pee-nut I ever read.

  25. Clark - July 25, 2022 1:43 pm

    The best I’ve had was in Tiger, Georgia. That roadside cooker is not there anymore, but if you travel farther south, you can get some gooduns at Jaemor farms just north of Gainesville.

  26. Brenda Sanders - July 25, 2022 2:12 pm

    Loving “bulled peenuts” here in North Carolina, too!
    And loving everything I’ve read that you’ve written.

  27. Anita Bisley - July 25, 2022 2:25 pm

    Life long Alabamian here. Tried them once and gagged. Awful. Do love peanuts raw or roasted. Try the Peanut Depot downtown Birmingham. Morris Ave. You will forget all about those other horrible things!

  28. Cyndee - July 25, 2022 2:49 pm

    Boiled peanuts are a thing in our family. I had an uncle that cooked them anytime we went to visit. He had the extra large kind. I was in heaven!

  29. Steve Maynard - July 25, 2022 2:52 pm

    The best boiled is from the Pee-nut lady on the side of the road under a umbrella and setting in a metal chair at the stop and go in Andalusia AL. Every time she’s there I stop and let my wife drive to Destin while I indulge. My Tennesseans never had it so good.

    • Jim Thompson - July 26, 2022 1:29 am

      This Texas boy had a georgia cracker uncle that couldn’t believe I didn’t like them when we used to visit him in Soperton Ga back in the 70s. Can’t believe they now sell them in Texas
      … in cans! I’ll pass.

  30. Patricia Gibson - July 25, 2022 2:57 pm

    They are delicious!

  31. Mike Palmer - July 25, 2022 2:57 pm

    I once had a guy from Chicago working for me. One day I stopped and bought a bag of boiled peanuts and told him to try them. I noticed that he was not putting the shells in the extra bag I had gotten so I asked what he was doing with the shells. He responded that he thought he was supposed to eat them. After trying them after they were shelled, he became a fan of boiled peanuts.

  32. JonDragonfly - July 25, 2022 3:00 pm

    Hey, ELEVEN,
    I’m still praying for you, Brother.

  33. Marilyn - July 25, 2022 3:04 pm

    ONLY a true Southenah can exquisitely close their eyes and savor a mushy, boiled peanut! I remember being introduced to them while living in the South. They’re WAAAAY too good for me! Please pass the fresh pecans!

  34. JS - July 25, 2022 3:27 pm

    If you were from Dothan, then the proper pronunciation is Bawled PeaNUTS.

  35. Terry - July 25, 2022 3:37 pm

    Being a peanut lover in all forms but not liking boiled peanuts has kinda rocked my world. It’s a kinda a disconnect in my peanut-lovin’ life but I just can’t do it . Nope -no boiled peanuts for me!

  36. Donna Pearson - July 25, 2022 3:57 pm

    Oh, man. The childhood memories this evokes! We ate them along with an ice-cold bottled “Cocola,” as my grandma called it.

  37. Pat Harris - July 25, 2022 4:10 pm

    Never had boiled peanuts. Used to be a man as you described boiling them alongside the road in Antioch TN. Just as soon as I decided I needed to try them, he was gone. Hasn’t returned. Now this used-to-be Yankee can’t find any. Won’t hesitate the next time I see a “Bulled Pee nuts” sign.

  38. Jim Morris - July 25, 2022 4:16 pm

    I am at my desk in my office, in the industrial park in Florence, Ala…snacking…no, lunching on boiled peanuts…I found green peanuts at a produce
    stand in Lawrenceburg, Tn, yesterday…Virginia Whites…the best boiled peanut…EVER!..I boiled up two batches…one, I saved for my daughter to
    pickup at my office today…this is known as bait…she will, for sure, come visit, knowing boiled peanuts are in evidence…the other, I brought to work…I walked by my biz partners desk, showed her the bag of magic, and she leapt from her desk, grabbed said bag, and dove in…I do a good peanut…

  39. Richard C Adams - July 25, 2022 4:24 pm

    Dothan heathens stole the title “Peanut Capital of the World” from Enterprise many years ago. We will never forgive them and won’t even go there except for high school football games in odd-numbered years, and for wrestlin’ whenever it breaks out on U.S. 231.

  40. Steve McCaleb - July 25, 2022 4:32 pm

    For those who find boiled peanuts “disgusting” may I suggest going back to Phase 1 of the process. I think the ingestion of 3-4 of what I once heard a college professor refer to as”16 ounce containers of social lubricant” will sharpen your pallet and hopefully free your mind at the same time. Only smart thing I ever heard the man say.

  41. Roseann R Romans - July 25, 2022 4:33 pm

    Back in the day you could get boiled peanuts off the highways in Florida. Not so much anymore. I have friends from N.Y.S. and Conn. I had just boiled peanuts for my daughters and offered my friends a sample.. Their comment “disgusting.” Guess it’s an acquired taste that hasn’t gone North of the M/D line.

  42. AlaRedClayGirl - July 25, 2022 7:29 pm

    After hearing about boiled peanuts for years, I finally tried them. While I wanted to like them I just couldn’t. That was a long time ago; maybe I’ll stop at a stand along the way to the beach next week.

  43. southerngirlalways - July 25, 2022 7:38 pm

    I grew up in Florida with relatives in Alabama and Mississippi. We always ate boiled peanuts. I love them when they’re hot and salty. My husband was born in Atlanta but moved to Texas when he was six. He and his son tried boiled peanuts when I took them to Gainesville for a Florida football game. They were adventurous but I couldn’t win them over. They remain roasted peanut fans only. I think if my husband had stayed in Georgia he’d have grown up loving boiled peanuts. But then I wouldn’t have met him!

  44. pattymack43 - July 25, 2022 8:18 pm

    Would love to try those peanuts!! Sounds yummy!!

  45. Robin Riley - July 25, 2022 9:07 pm

    Love this article. My dad used to stop at a drive in located in Anderson SC to get ours when we visited grandparents. Then granddaddy grew peanuts for a while so we’d have them on the farm. Now, since they’re raising cattle, an uncle has a source for green peanuts and bulked pee-nuts are at most family gatherings. Yum!

  46. Linda Moon - July 25, 2022 10:25 pm

    It doesn’t get much better than nuts of any kind for me. The highway sign conjured up a different image for me and I had to laugh out loud – – REALLY loud! Did you hear it? Good stuff here, Sean….laughter and Pee-Nuts as only you could tell it!

  47. Susie Flick - July 25, 2022 10:36 pm

    When visiting my older sis and brother-in-law, who lived in the mts near Blue Ridge, GA, we took a drive around the curvy country roads near them. We came upon an older man with a huge cast iron pot full of boiled peanuts. As we waited, he had some chew in his mouth and was spitting near the pot. The hot liquid the peanuts were in was very dark. I told my b.i.l. that he probably spits his chew in the pot! I didn’t try any of those but have tried other boiled peanuts in GA and TN. Some are great – others leave a lot to be desired, especially the ones with some extra flavoring, if you know what I mean!

  48. Duane Shelley - July 25, 2022 11:38 pm

    Just got through eating some about 15 minutes ago. Grew up on a farm 10 miles from Dothan where peanuts were the main crop. They sure are hard to beat.

  49. Phillip Williams - July 26, 2022 12:37 am

    Boiled peanuts are great, but the best ones are when pulled green and boiled before they are dried! Now, your talking real Alabama boiled peanuts! They’re hard to find, but worth the effort. I live in Conover, NC now, but I’m originally from Thorsby (Collins Chapel community), Alabama, and my daddy taught us how to boil peanuts, and they had to be green or they were “no good.” If you haven’t tried boiled green ones, you haven’t had the best!

  50. Melanie - July 26, 2022 1:05 am

    Yay Dothan! the 🥜 Capital of the World 🌎

  51. Slimpicker - July 26, 2022 2:19 am

    Your story reminds me of the days in 1968 & 69 when my buddies mom would make boiled peanuts and we would sell pint sized paper bags of peanuts outside of J. M. Fields for 25 cents. It didn’t take us very long to sell out.

  52. Kim Morris Ladoczky - July 26, 2022 6:05 am

    Ohhhh, love bawled peenuts. Best road trip snack ever. Yes, grean is best. But I am not that picky. I usually pick up 2 bags. One for eaten now & one for later. I like them cold too.

  53. Margaret Jackson - July 26, 2022 3:23 pm

    I grew up eating boiled peanuts! (This was a looong time ago.)

    My grandparents would plant a few rows of peanuts. I remember the whole family going through the rows, gathering up the vines after Grandpa plowed the rows up.

    Then we’d throw them, vines & all on top of the barn to dry out.

    Once Grandma declared them ready, they had to be picked off the vines, and washed. And washed. And washed.

    After they were dry enough to bag up, we’d store them for winter.

    But. . . She would fill the kettle with water, peanuts, and a ton of salt. They seemed to take forever to boil.

    When they were finally done, Oh. My. Goodness!!

    Mom would boil some in a pot on the stove occasionally thru the winter, but non were as good as the first ones from the field.

  54. Robert Chiles - July 26, 2022 6:58 pm

    Went to seminary in Chicago. Whenever my wife would travel home (to SC) she would return with a couple of bags of boiled peanuts. The northerners would all go, “Eeeeuuwww.” and the southerners would come running.

  55. Rhonda - July 27, 2022 2:16 am

    Sooooo true. Dothan has a peanut man starue in honor of an old man who use to do this same thing

  56. Robert H. Mordica - July 27, 2022 2:19 am

    All that was said about boiled Peanuts, and know one got it right, ” YOU BOILED BEANUTS IN BEER “

  57. James A. Pate - July 27, 2022 3:32 am

    I was lucky and grew up on Galveston Bay. We figured anyone east of the Sabine were no hopers. Then, at the University, I fell for a beautiful girl from Louisiana, who was not only beautiful but smarter than I could even pretend to be. She got hold of some boiled peanuts and told me to eat ’em or else. You can bet I ate a bunch. When I visited her family, her Mother said, “Poppy tells me you like boiled peanuts.” “Yes Ma’am, I do.”

  58. Joseph Teague - July 27, 2022 4:25 pm

    Mighty Rite, Mighty Rite

  59. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 8, 2022 11:16 pm


  60. joydiamond1 - August 15, 2022 2:08 am

    LOVE your stories!


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