Delta, Alabama—Blame it on the vegetarians. "My daughter, when she was two, refused to eat meat, but she looooved boiled [pronounced "bold"] peanuts," explains Wilma Alexander, aka "the Peanut Lady." "So we started to give her peanuts to get her more protein."
Not long after that, Wilma started hawking her wares at flea markets, then moved on to a tent and a pickup truck. Her big break came after she recovered from knee replacement surgery, when a state agency gave her a grant to help build the operation. "They said 'you have a client base and everything,'" she says with a touch of pride.
Last spring, when she lost her her job at a gas station, she turned the stand into a full-time gig. She does a brisk business, considering that she's parked on the grass off to the side of an otherwise empty stretch of state highway 431, in an otherwise empty stretch of eastern Alabama.
So what's the secret to the perfect peanut? Wilma doesn't hesitate: "My method of cooking."
"We had a bold [boiled] peanut man a mile up the road and he didn't hurt our business one bit." And then she lets me in on a secret: "His niece used to come on all the way over here to have our peanuts. She said her uncle just didn't cook them right."