Goober Peas: A Glorious Mess

You don’t have to ask author Audrey McDonald Atkins twice if she wants goober peas. She prefers them by the busheload.

illustration of goober peas
Illustration by Anna Thornton

Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins

This morning I came into possession of something I can only term a “mess” — a glorious mess.

You see, Brother called me and said that he’d been given a gift, a downright boon if you ask me, but since he was going out of town, he’d be unable to partake in said gift and did I want it. My answer was an unequivocal you’dbetterbelieveitIamonmywayrightnowdon’tdoasinglethinguntilIgetthere!!!

What was this benevolence? This act of kindness? This good fortune hidden in a garbage bag? 

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It was a mess of raw goober peas!

Just as fresh and purty as you want ‘em to be. Brown, knobby, just smellin’ like green. Why, they still had the stems on them!

Just how much is a “mess,” you ask? Well, when this descriptive unit of measure automatically popped into my mind as I received this windfall, I wondered the same thing. I do know a bushel is a definite unit of dry measure, about eight gallons, and I know a bushel is made up of four pecks, there are two gallons in a peck, and so on into the high math of cups. But what about a “mess”? 

I know you can have a mess of greens (and don’t I wish I did!), which I think would be about an armload — as many as you can comfortably tote without a sack. But you can also have a mess of fish, which belies the dry measure concept. I think a mess of fish (again, I reiterate, don’t I wish I had one!) would be about a full stringer, maybe a dozen or so. Given these parameters and some general life experience, I would have to surmise that a mess is enough to feed your family and maybe have a little left over to share or put up for later. 

Here’s something I do know for sure. Those grand goobers are going to spend a few hours swimming in a boiling, briny bath this very night so that come Saturday, when all our kith and kin are coming to watch the football, we can gobble up this glorious mess, the juice running down our chins and arms until we are absolutely sick with good fortune.

Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog

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