Wanderlust and the peanut
Sometimes we come across an item that has such interesting historical roots that we just have to share the details with everyone. Today we’re thinking Goobers. Goobers, for those who haven’t ripped open a package yet, are chocolate coated peanuts and, aside from sneaking a little extra protein into your day, Goobers also provide us with a neat little lesson in history and geography!
The peanut, the basis of our little Goobers, originated in South America, but before they made it onto North American soil they hooked a right and made it to Africa where they stayed for a couple of centuries before they finally made the trans-Atlantic trip (again!) to North America.
So what does this have to do with a name like Goobers? Well this stop-over in Africa put the peanut in contact with the various Bantu tribes whose word for “peanut” is the ancestor of “goober.” The Kongo people called the peanut “nguba,” the same word for kidney, using the shape of the peanut as their guide. The humble nguba travelled, along with many Africans, to North America and word spread along the South, popularising the nguba and morphing nguba into goober. This slang term for peanuts caught on, though never replacing peanut, and even ended up in a Civil War song that details how soldiers managed to survive starvation by stealing into fields and eating up goober peas (peanuts!).
The Blumenthal Candy Company developed the Goober in its current form in 1925 and chose a name that many Americans would easily recognize, helping them gain a foothold in the highly competitive candy market. While this may not resonate in the areas outside of the southern United States, we can at least appreciate the simple, clean taste of a salty little peanut soaked in milk chocolate! So next time you need a little boost, pick up a pack of Goobers and toast to that little bit of history that connects us all, even through the simple little peanut.