Thursday, August 20, 2015

Peanuts + Coca-Cola = ?

There’s an old song about being country when country wasn’t cool. One of the examples of country-fried behavior the singer cites is putting peanuts in her Coke. That’s pretty country. My Kentucky-born father and Tennessee native mother both grew up country and dumping sleeves of peanuts into ice cold bottles of Coca-Cola then drink-eating the whole concoction was a fairly common snack time occurrence in their respective necks of the woods. It had been for decades before they got there.  

I grew up in Kentucky but by the time my generation came along people weren’t really peanuting their Coca-Colas much anymore so I never did it myself. Being back home for a short spell, though, has made me want to get in touch with my junk food roots so today I’m pouring peanuts into my Coke. Don’t try to stop me.

Sweet and salty are a great taste combination but why soak the peanuts? Food historian Rick McDaniel tried to look into it but found only guesses. Was it because working people without a place to wash up didn’t want to get their peanuts dirty? Maybe, but I found it tough to get the nuts into the tiny bottle neck by pouring them straight from the package. I needed to use my potentially filthy-dirty hand. 

Also, it’s easier just to pour the peanuts from the sleeve directly into your mouth so I’m guessing it wasn’t done for sanitary reasons.

McDaniel also found speculation that people put the peanuts into their Coke before putting them into their mouths because it was easier to enjoy them while driving a manual transmission car. That might be closer to accurate. Stick or automatic, though, I’m guessing that the real reason (if snacking while driving was the reason at all) was the lack of a car cup holder. Two hands, two snacks, one steering wheel. Something’s gotta give.

Whatever the actual origin of the practice (and I’m not betting any money on my cup holder theory), my ancestral people did it so I’m doing it too.

The first thing that happens when you put peanuts into a bottle of Coke is that the salt reacts with the carbonated beverage to create a satisfying fizz.

(Okay, the actual first thing that happens is you look around to make sure no one is watching you do something this odd, but you get what I mean.)

The first drink of the mixture is interesting. I’d never had chunky-style Coca-Cola before. The mouth-feel was odd but also kind of cool.

Crunching down on the floating peanuts was sort of satisfying and the taste was nice. That part is no surprise. It’s not all that different than chasing the peanuts with the Coke which I’ve done a bunch of times and the peanut/sweet combo is pretty much what you get with a PB&J or even a PB&B

I’m not saying I’m going to do this all the time but if I find myself with a bottle of Coke in one hand, a package of peanuts in the other and miles to go before I sleep in a car which is (inexplicably, in this day and age) severely lacking in the cup holder department, I’m definately pouring one of my snacks into the other. I actually might do it even if I don't have to. I kind of like peanuts in my Coke. Maybe the taste for it is somehow encoded in my genes.

Of course, the DNA Theory of Peanuts in Coke Love may not stand up to testing. As an experiment I asked my Kentucky/North Carolina born and raised wife to give it a try. She was not a fan.

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