The intruding dish
Growing up, I barely knew what boiled peanuts were. While not unheard of in the sliver of northeastern North Carolina where I was born and raised, they were extremely uncommon. We ate plenty of peanuts, but they were usually salted or whole (which are delicious). I think I may have seen boiled peanuts twice in the entire 18 years before I departed for college.
Last weekend, I traveled back to my home area. On a long drive down to the beach, I saw an unfamiliar site: signs reading BOILED PEANUTS were at every gas station and plenty of restaurants.
You see, while not really a fixture of local cuisine, when Yankees and people from elsewhere visit the Southern Coast, they expect boiled peanuts. So, because there's money to be made, boiled peanuts rapidly spring up everywhere.
In 20 years, they won't just be something sold to tourists, but will have become a fixture of local cuisine. Odds are, a bit after that, few people will ever remember it was otherwise, and many will proudly swear that it has always been thus.
Why am I rambling about this? Because this a very minor example of a process that goes on all the time, everywhere, and often with more important things than cuisine. In fashion, politics, culture, music, religion and every other field we set our mind to, something new and alien comes in, often for mundane reasons.
If the circumstances are right, it takes root, and becomes an accepted part of how we live our lives. If it lasts long enough, people even start rewriting the past to fit it in. What was once a handy invention, an irrational dislike, an easy compromise or an improvised solution becomes a ferociously defended tradition, and few people remember —or, importantly, want to remember— why it came there in the first place. It is more comforting to believe that some things around us have always been there, because that assures us that whatever else happens, they always will be.
So yes, peanuts. Get some whole, break them open, and eat what's inside. Good night.