Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If they're legumes, why are they called peaNUTS?

Who's asking: Chris Neely, St. Louis, MO

This is the last peanut question for a while, I think -- although I am very fond of peanuts, alone and as peanut butter. I don't really like peanuts in things, and peanut butter-flavored stuff is usually gross... exceptions to this are Isamax's peanut butter whoopie pie and the peanut-butter filled, chocolate-frosted doughnuts at Stan's in Westwood.

But I digress. Peanuts are called peanuts because they look like peas and taste like nuts. The word "peanut" dates to 1807, approximately; before that, they were called ground nuts and ground peas. The British also called them "monkey nuts."

A nut, botanically, is the hard, one-seeded fruit of a tree. Peanuts grow on vines, not on trees, they're not hard, and they grow two or three to a pod. So they're not nuts.

This begs the next question, "What is a legume?" A legume is a pod that splits into two valves, with the seeds attached to one side of the valve. That describes peanuts, peas and beans. It also describes tamarinds, which I would never have classified as legumes, but actually are.

Peanut butter and tamarind paste might be a pretty good combination, now I think of it.

3 comments:

The Mystery Bookstore said...

Is it bad blog etiquette to ask about the person posing the question? I knew a Chris Neely here in L.A. years ago, in the film industry...

"peanut-butter filled, chocolate-frosted doughnuts at Stan's"? ohmygod, Clair, that's the most heart-stopping item on Stan's menu!!! and Tim loves it, too.

See you soon! Linda

AnswerGirl said...

Do not pretend that you don't love those doughnuts too, Linda. It's true, though, they'll kill you.

Different Chris Neely, I'm guessing, unless he has a secret identity that neither his wife nor I know about. I added a link to his web page...

the mystery Bookstore said...

Um, I think you're right -- I think it must be a different Chris Neely. The man I knew was one of the brilliant minds behind the cult film classic, "Killer Clowns." I worked swing gang with him while he was trying to sell other scripts. You would have loved him -- quiet but wickedly funny when he chimed in, always with his nose in a book whenever we had down times. I suspect he also spent a fair amount of time quietly studying the absurdities of the human animal.

But not a banker, as far as I know.

Linda

p.s. I've been known to take a bite or two of that particular creation at Stan's, but I stand by my favorite: the chocolate glazed old-fashioned and a carton of milk.