Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jimmy Carter in the Pantry, Now on the Stage

When you opened the pantry you saw this, green Carter stickers covering every single jar, or so it seemed to my ten year old eyes. For those few months leading up to the 1976 presidential election my family owned more peanut based products than Lillian Carter.

My father was a Republican, a rooting tooting flag waving Texas educated Republican. The candidacy of Jimmy Carter was the greatest gift ever bestowed upon my politically minded and quick witted father; he had dinner party material for years thanks to the peanut farmer from Georgia. He also had peanuts, tons and tons of peanuts.

The son of one of Dad's best friends, a Texan, was a Jimmy Carter loyalist. The boxes began to appear not long after Dad returned from a Houston trip: peanut butter, peanut brittle, spicy Texas peanut barbecue sauce, roasted peanuts, salted peanuts, raw peanuts. There was peanut oil, peanut flavored cereals and peanut butter cookies. And every single one of them was wrapped in a bright green Jimmy Carter bumper sticker.

Disgusted, Dad wanted to toss the peanuts. Not so said Sharie, don't be wasteful, we'll eat it all. And so she set about, cooking skills generally limited to the browning of hamburger, to add a pop of peanut to every thing she created. For months we suffered through a myriad of dinners: goulash, spaghetti, stroganoff, all rooted in hamburger and with a dash of peanut butter. What was once a baseball game treat, roasted peanuts now appeared in every school lunch. My teeth suffered the joy of peanut brittle months before Christmas.  Early impressions of President Carter, because we were still eating peanuts long after inauguration day, were a bit peanut shaped.

Dad mellowed in his resistance, Sharie continued to thaw hamburger and I learned about inflation, energy, hostages and the Panama Canal.  By the time he left office, after four long years and a general creaming by Ronald Reagan, we were out of peanuts. History tells us it was not the most successful presidency, bested by the likes of scandalous Warren Harding and impeached Andrew Johnson. His work as a former President has been far more effective and respected, almost all of which my peanut loving father has missed.

President and Mrs. Carter are speaking Monday in Grand Rapids. We will be there with the girls who will know much more about the former president than I did at their age, but with far less peanut flavor.

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