Until just a few weeks ago, I was living in an ignorant bubble…
I was driving around listening to Chris Kimball’s Milk Street Radio when I heard something that made me pull my car over. Kimball was speaking to the founder of Saturated Ice Cream, a Nashville-based company that makes flavors rooted in Southern Black culture. Acclaimed pastry chef Lokelani Alabanza told Kimball about making flavors like peanuts and Coke that are intended to inspire a deep sense of nostalgia when eaten.
Based on their conversation, it became apparent that, for Southerners, peanuts and Coke was (and is) one of those unlikely flavor marriages that becomes a divisive cultural phenomenon. For many, peanut butter and chocolate, apples and cheddar cheese, Frosty and fries, and apparently peanuts and Coke are written in the stars. You can bet my appetite was piqued.
Well, I needed to buy gas anyway! After purchasing a cute glass bottle of Coke and one of those individual portion bags of salted peanuts, I gave it a go.
It’s immediately obvious that you need to chug a bit of the Coke down to fit nuts in there. And by “immediately obvious” I mean that I tried pouring the nuts in right away and they didn’t fit and it made a bit of a mess. Getting the proper tear on the bag of peanuts seems important, too. The tear must be large enough to fit the peanuts, but small enough that you can pour into the narrow neck of the bottle without spilling a bunch of nuts in your seat. Perhaps it’s all right if you do spill a bunch—a snack pension plan. Let’s just say I made a mid-sized investment during this snack session. Pouring the nuts causes the Coke to bubble up wildly, so plan to sip it immediately after adding the peanuts.
My first impression was that the peanuts made the Coke pleasantly salty, and the combination facilitated eating the nuts and drinking the Coke while driving. Each sip of cola deposits a few crunchy nuts in your mouth, and it makes for a pretty satisfying snack experience. While I’m not likely to be lusting after this combo anytime soon, I would definitely eat it again and I could see it becoming my preferred road trip snack.
The National Peanut Board, a special interest group for American peanut farmers, cites a food historian that speculates the snack combo likely started in the 1920s when packages of shelled peanuts first arrived on gas station shelves. It certainly would make snacking easier while driving a stick shift.
Still thinking about Lokelani Alabanza’s peanuts-and-Coke ice cream when I got home, I decided to try a peanuts and Coca-Cola float. Do you think this is a radical step for someone so newly introduced to peanuts and Coke? What am I, a Puritan?
Well... the results were awesome. While the Coca-Cola had a hint of vanilla flavor, adding the vanilla ice cream made it richer and more intense, and stood in greater contrast with the salt from the nuts. I found that if you want to maximize that delicious soda-ice cream head and maintain carbonation for as long as possible, you should dump the bag of peanuts on top of vanilla ice cream and then pour Coke over the whole thing. However, if you want the saltiest Coke possible, first pour nuts into the soda and wait a minute or two, then pour it over the ice cream. You can add more nuts to the float if needed, and you’ll still get a good bit of soda-ice cream foam. I thought the latter method tasted better overall. Would you try it, or are you a Coke-and-peanuts conservative who doesn’t like the combo mucked up with any additions?