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Jake Owen may never get his own cooking show, but there's a lot that goes into his recipe for peanuts in Coke. More, in fact, than just peanuts and Coke. There's a little bit of Southern tradition, some very fond memories and a shot of Barbara Mandrell in each one.
"When I was a kid, like around 13 years old, I used to ride to Perry, Ga., with my dad. He used to ride cutting horses," he told me the last time he was in Chicago. "And I remember the first time we stopped, he got some bags of peanuts and Coca-Colas, and he's like, 'Son, there's something about the mix of the Coca-Cola and the salt that makes it really nice.'" So, Owen made me one of these salty concoctions with the ingredients I'd brought on the bus. "This Mexican Coke, you got has carbonated water and sugar. You will not find high-fructose corn syrup in Mexican Cokes. They use actual cane sugar, which makes this Coke way better." Then he threw a handful of salted peanuts in the neck of the Coke bottle, and started singing Barbara Mandrell's 1981 hit "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" to me. "I remember circling the drive in/Pullin' up and turning down George Jones/I remember when no one was lookin'/I was putting peanuts in my Coke," Owen sang. I don't know if it was the classic country or just the heady mix of salty and sweet, but Owen made a fan out of me that night.