Peanut has a bad name. It has become a metaphor for something of little value. For instance, people say, “I get paid peanuts.”
Yet, peanuts are ubiquitously valuable. In many countries all over the world, roasted peanuts are a staple snack served with beverages. And people, perhaps under the influence of alcohol, love them and raise a toast to them: “May I have some nuts, please?” That’s a question frequently asked, glass raised, in bars when a bunch of drinking buddies are having the time of their life. And, at home, many of us resort to the humble peanut-butter and jelly sandwich when hunger strikes.
I love peanuts. I eat them as tea-time snack in the afternoon. And peanuts are used in several Indian dishes, including the upma, a dish made from sooji, or semolina. It’s a pan-Indian favorite. I love my mother’s version, which I have grown up eating. For it, roasted or fried (if used raw) peanuts are chopped with a mortar and pestle. In India, another dish, chikki, is crammed with peanuts – or other nuts. It’s a sweet snack of nuts and molten jaggery, cut into squares, often sold in packets in grocery stores.
And remember peanut has a royal connection. Peanuts are a distinctive feature of one of China’s best-known dishes, kung pao chicken, which bears the name of a high-ranking officer of the Ching dynasty. The Szechwan preparation was created in his honor. (Some cooks substitute cashew for peanut, but that reflects merely a personal preference.)
Dear reader, do you like peanuts? (Of course, peanuts would be forbidden for those who are allergic to them.)