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12 Days of Christmas - Day 5

12 Days of Christmas - Day 5

The cost for multiple daily meals out on the road can be exorbitant. Why not give the gift of home cooking to your trucker instead?

Mema's Magic Refrigerator

Fridge and microwave next to the bed in our 73" sleeper.
Mema's magic refrigerator.

My mother's mother lived in northern Mississippi. They had 86 acres of farm land, so there was always an abundance of food, especially veggies. She had a deep freezer, a  second small refrigerator, and a magic refrigerator with an unending hole in the back.

No matter how many left overs we had, or fresh fruit, or gallons of tea getting cold, or any number of things needing to go in the fridge there was always room. More to the point, she alone knew the magic combination to open that vast hole mysteriously cloaked in the back of that old fridge. Nothing ever had to be thrown away that was still edible. And no matter how many groceries she came home with from the commissary, she always found room for it all.

This magical legacy has been passed down to me. Even with the tiny dorm fridge we have in the truck with a freezer smaller than a mailbox, that magically hidden hole opens for me allowing me to find a place for everything that needs chilling. Gallon of creamer? Sure. Milk, 2 types of deli cheese, butter, cream cheese, deli meats, tortillas, condiments, sodas, fruits, and veggies? No problem. A whole pot roast, beef tips, ground beef, ground pork, chicken breasts, frozen spinach and peas?  Sure thing!  Left overs? Pudding? Candy? Chicken salad? Juice? Yogurt? Ricotta? Mozzarella? Eggs? Bacon? Apple sauce? More? I can make it fit with room to spare!

This gift is a god-send while we are over the road.  A big truck, even with a 73" sleeper, has limited space. Every inch is valuable and utilized. Eating out all the time is expensive and unhealthy. I love my little fridge and other appliances that allow me to cook more meals than not while we are on the road. He drives all day, in all weather conditions. This way I can always have fresh food to fix him a nourishing hot meal at the end of the day.

Thank you Mema, for passing down this witchery, this magical heritage, the unending refrigerator hole!


Southern Summers

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It's funny how a song can bring back memories so vivid it's like you experienced them only yesterday.  One such song for me is “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley.  The music and lyrics are very poignant and maudlin of days past, especially growing up in Florida and spending summers at the beaches.  Those late summer evenings when the beaches empty early due to cooler weather is a sorrowful experience for us beach bound southerners, as it signaled the end of lazy sunny days and a return to school.  Even now as an adult, no longer privy to they months-long, carefree, summertime breaks, the change in weather certain songs still bring about the strong feelings of those long-gone days of youth.  Needless to say, driving down the highway, in January, in Idaho, the juxtaposition of warm summer nights with the chilly windy north was rather strong.

Earlier in the morning while having breakfast with a friend we found ourselves explaining what can only be described as a true “Southernism”.  Along with hot summer days and iced cold sweet tea, boiled peanuts are decidedly a Southern delicacy.  Northerners and even Westerners are familiar with roasted peanuts, but few have heard of, much less tried the salty, briny, deliciousness that is the boiled peanut.  As a child the beginning of summer and that first trip to the beach was always christened with a large container of fresh, hot, salty, boiled peanuts.  From August to October you can find these yummy treats being sold at any number of road-side stands throughout the South, especially close to the coast.  Boiled peanuts and sunny days at the beach just go hand in hand.

But what IS a boiled peanut?  (asked in the voice of Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinney when asking what is a grit.)

Boiled peanuts are just what they sound like, but they aren't made from the dry roasted peanuts most are familiar with.  The best boiled peanuts are made from freshly harvested “green” peanuts.  What that means is the peanut has been recently harvested (usually within just a couple days) and has not been allowed to dry out.  The shells and nut inside still retain as much as 35% of their growing moisture.  Many people will also call them “raw” peanuts.  Of course you want to rinse these peanuts several times to remove cracked shells, bad nuts, dirt, etc...  Then place them in a very large pot and cover them with water until the peanuts float.  The key to making the best boiled peanuts is salt, and lots of it!  Typically you will want to add at least ½ cup of salt per gallon of water.  I like mine much saltier, as do most Southerners.  If boiling a large batch of them it is not unheard of to use a whole container of mortons salt, or sea salt if you prefer.  Some people add cajun seasoning, hot sauce, jalapenos peppers, sweet and sour seasoning, lemons, or other variations.  Personally, I enjoy just the basic salted version.  Let the peanuts boil about 4 hours in a regular pot or about an hour in a pressure cooker.  As they cook the shells will become softened and the salty brine will penetrate the shell and peanut inside softening and flavoring both.  (*Important note:  roasted peanuts cannot be boiled as the shell and nut will not soften no matter how long you boil them, even under pressure.)  Once thoroughly cooked allow to cool just enough so not to burn your fingers and tongue.  

Now for the eating.  This is the trick.  You want to savor the juice inside the shell.  Crack the shell along the seem with your teeth and quickly suck the juice out.  Oh dear salty yumminess!  Finish opening the shell and eat the softened nut inside.  DO NOT EAT THE SHELL.  It won't hurt you, but it really doesn't taste all the appetizing.  Discard the empty shell and repeat with a fresh peanut from what ever container you've put them in.  They store for several days in the refrigerator and heat up just as well in the microwave or a few minutes on the stove.  You can also freeze them for longer keeping.


Of course it is only January and we are in the Northern half of the country, so I have a long wait until my next treat of boiled peanuts.  But for those of you who have never tried them, don't be scared.  It's definitely different.  But once you get past the texture difference and stop expecting the hard, crunchy, roasted variety of peanuts, I am quite sure you will love them boiled.