When we arrived last night in Richmond, it was the peanuts that first caught my eye. There they were on my grandmother's table, the Virginia Diner logo emblazoned scarlet on the box.
My grandmother's always loved these peanuts. They used to come from an old refurbished railroad car, opened as a diner in 1929. They handed out peanuts instead of after dinner mints, and soon everybody was calling for them. Before long calls turned to mail order.
My grandmother's package always arrives around Christmastime, wrapped in brown paper with golden tins sealed shut. We pack them into the freezer, where they remain perfectly crisp until celebration is officially declared.
I peered down to see who'd sent them so early. There was no name, no address—a surprise. I held the box up, shook it—peanuts to be sure. I sniffed it a moment, and without thinking tore into the cardboard. The box fell away, and suddenly I'd opened the tin lid. I got a knife, carved out the seal, and dug my hands into the salty pile.
These, I thought to myself as I ate, are peanuts. I popped one into my mouth, and then another. I poured out a handful onto a plate before I could stop. The salt coated my hands, my cheeks, as I sunk my teeth into the crisp, oily nuts. I shouldn't have opened them, I well knew, but it was impossible to put them away. There I was, come to bring comfort, and instead robbing my grandmother of her favorite snack.
"You look like a puppy that just chewed up a toy," declared my mother when she and my grandmother returned. Apparently, I was looking guilty. "I was saving those for Christmas!" my grandmother chastised. "But I 'spose I should've known better than to leave them out."
She certainly should have. But in the end it didn't matter much, for the surprise was intended after all for us. We'll take them home for Christmas, with a few handfuls missing a bit early. They may not exactly be local—but that's what makes them a treat—a holiday trade between foodsheds.
For more about Virginia Diner peanuts, or to place a Christmas order, click here:
Virginia Diner Peanuts or call 1.888.VA.DINER.