Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren

Author Archive



November 2013



In A Nutshell: Boiled Peanuts and My Dad

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My dad cooked three things: popcorn, coleslaw and boiled peanuts. He was married to a wonderful cook who had her own restaurant, so he never had to make anything else.


Dad and me on a family trip to Hawaii, 1976

Dad was a produce salesman—that’s how he and my mother met—and eventually he bought all the produce for her at Mary Mac’s. He goes to the Georgia State farmer’s market where all the huge produce wholesale warehouses were, then visits “The Row,” or the rows of individual farmers’ stalls that were open to the public. If anyone had raw peanuts, he’d bring them home and boil them in a pressure cooker.

When he died in 1982 at the age of 73, mom kept his pressure cooker since it was one of a few things he ever touched in the kitchen. I have it now, but functions as a memento, not a machine.


My favorite photo – me kissing Dad in my childhood home in Atlanta, 1960

I’ve never boiled a peanut in my life and I don’t know anyone who makes them at home. Hugh Acheson has a boiled peanut hummus on his menu at Empire State South. Otherwise, I only see them in big vats on the side of the road in the country, at farmer’s markets, or here at Serenbe in October when we celebrate the Georgia peanut harvest with Super Goober Day.

But if you’ve got raw peanuts, some water and a little time on your hands, the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook has a recipe from a man named John Martin Taylor. He uses freshly dug Valencia peanuts, which are in season from July to September. According to the cookbook, he says you can start with dried peanuts, “but their magic is lost.”


Dad’s pressure cooker.

Boiled Peanuts
Makes 8 servings
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 3 pounds (8 cups) freshly dug green peanuts in the shell, preferably Valencia

Bring the water and salt to a low boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the peanuts and cook to your liking, 1 to 2 hours. I like the shell to become soft enough almost to be edible. Let the peanuts sit in the water off the heat until the desired degree of saltiness is reached.



September 2013



Chef John Besh gets the picture

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous

2S3U2138Chef John Besh had 26 hours at Serenbe, and I knew most of it would be spent in the kitchen for the Southern Chefs Series. So shortly after he arrived for his first visit to our spot in the Chattahoochee Hill Country, I took the native Louisianan on a tour of the property. I showed him the farm, stables, neighborhoods, shops, restaurants and everything in-between. And with every stop he’d hop out of the car and take picture after picture.

I could just see it on his face: He instantly got the beauty of the area. When we returned to my house, his team had unloaded 6 Mega coolers of food into the backyard for the classes. John took one look at them and said, “Nope, these are going right back in the van. No way are we ruining the scenery in this spot.”

Though I tried to play it cool, I had to pinch myself repeatedly over those two wonderful days last month. Josh Besh, the chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality, was in my kitchen! Cooking roasted black sea bass! I think everyone was a little star-struck because when I asked my friend Jill what name I should write on John’s cup for the day, she said, “Hotness.”

John made a gorgeous seafood paella for lunch on Sunday. It was an intense dish, but the perfect thing to make if you have a whole afternoon and a house full of friends to help. All the recipes from his visit came from Cooking From My Heart, his new cookbook coming out in October.