It was Albert Einstein who once said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
One idea that could easily fall into the category of “absurd” is the Southern tradition of peanuts and Coke®–or more explicitly, pouring peanuts into your Coke® before taking a gulp.
It is believed the idea started in the South in the early 20th century and the absurdly delicious sweet-and-salty sensation spread quickly across the South and down generational lines to contemporary Americans, who are keeping the tradition alive today.
Even diehard fans of peanuts and Coke® are stumped about just when, where and who first came up with the idea of tearing off a corner of a single serving bag of salted peanuts so it makes a funnel and pouring the peanuts into a cold glass bottle of Coca-Cola®.
Food historian and author Rick McDaniel says a likely origin was in the 1920s when packaged shelled peanuts “began showing up at country stores and filling stations where the familiar contour bottle of Coke® was already being sold.”
McDaniel speculates, too, on why people put peanuts inside their bottles of Coke®. Maybe “working people may not have had a place to wash up…so you pour the peanuts directly in the bottle and your hands stay clean.” Or “it was easier to drive a stick shift…” or “leave one hand free…to keep working.”
One teacher in Georgia is doing her part to keep the peanuts-in-your-Coke® idea alive for her high school students. Earlier this year, Peggy Corbett, who teaches Advanced Placement Literature at Creekview High School, instructed her students to take a break from analyzing the characters of Beowulf and conduct a light-hearted experiment with peanuts and Coke®.
“I just couldn’t let my students leave school, and possibly home, without having some experience with the most Southern tradition,” said Ms. Corbett.
With a gift of some lightly salted peanuts from the National Peanut Board, Ms. Corbett gave her students the assignment: “First, eat some peanuts; second, take a sip of Coke® after you’ve swallowed your peanuts; Third, pour peanuts into your Coke® bottle; Finish the peanuts and Coke® together. Then write about it.”
If you ever wondered what adding peanuts to your Coke® would taste like, here’s a preview from Ms. Corbett’s class; told as only high-schoolers can tell it.
“I poured the package of peanuts into my Coke® and braced myself for what was about to come. When I tasted the salt with the Coke®, it surprised me because I wasn’t expecting it to taste so good. I drank the whole thing enjoying every last Coke-Soaked Peanut.”– Annie
“Eating them together, you get an awesome sensation of salty, sweet, fizzy and crunchy.”– Ashley
“When you combine the two, the Coke® washes the salt from the peanuts. This gives the peanuts a more nutty taste than when they are eaten separately. When combined with a cold Coke®, this nutty flavor becomes heavenly. Coke® and peanuts is an experience no one should miss out on.”– Mitch
“Having a Coke® with peanuts in it is like riding a tricycle because it makes you feel young again.”– Kaiden
“Having a Coke® with peanuts in it is like a doorknob because it opens new flavors in your mouth.”– Morgan
So, you see, drinking Coca-Cola® with salted peanuts isn’t only about the genius of pairing sweet and salty flavors; it’s about the experience—and remembering you’re taking part in a great idea that’s been handed down for generations.
Originally published in April 2016.