Thu, Aug 15, 2013 - Page 12 News List

The peanut as art

An understanding of the expressive power of art helps a couple in Fenglin take the humble peanut from the market stall to online gourmet commodity

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff reporter

Preparing the harvest for dry frying is labor-intensive work.

Photo courtesy of Goodeatss Peanuts

Liang Yu-lun (梁郁倫) always found the taste of the dry fried peanuts her mother-in-law in Hualien prepared to be a reminder that there was more to life than the hectic schedule that she managed as a curator for the Fubon Art Foundation (富邦藝術基金會) in Taipei. When the Taipei Times spoke to her last week in a telephone interview, she was busy dealing with operations at a small factory in Hualien’s Fenglin Township (鳳林). She had given up her career in the arts to create Goodeatss Peanuts (美好花生), a small brand of hand-fried peanuts and artisanal peanut butter that has emerged onto the local foodie scene as a recognized success story that combines a Taiwan cultural revival vibe, with eco-friendly, back-to-the-land overtones and Internet marketing savvy.

“My mother-in-law had been running a small business called Mother Chung’s Peanuts for about eight years, but four or five years ago she said that the work was becoming too taxing for her and she was planning to throw in the towel,” Liang said. “We had been enjoying these peanuts for many years, and now, if my mother-in-law retired, who would make these lovely peanuts for us.”

Dry-fried peanut are not exactly a rare commodity in Taiwan. In fact, they are probably available in one form or another at every supermarket and convenience store around the country. “But there is something special about peanuts grown and prepared at home by your mother that makes them special; quite distinct from anything you can buy,” Liang said. “This was the starting point in our thinking about the business that eventually became Goodeatss Peanuts.”

Back to the land

After years of working high pressure jobs in Taipei, Liang said she and her husband were eager to return to a more rural lifestyle more closely linked with family and community. “But the kinds of jobs we did were not available in Hualien,” Liang said. “Nevertheless, we had skills that we felt could be used in this new stage of our lives. We wondered if it would be possible to make selling peanuts something much more than selling peanuts. Perhaps using peanuts to tell a story and connect it with the land and a community of farmers. We felt that it would be possible to incorporate lots of art and cultural elements. We saw plenty of interesting potential, but the big step was to act on these ideas and make them a reality.”

According to Stone Shih (石傑方), brand manager for PEKOE (食品雜貨舖), an online retailer of artisanal food products, Goodeatss has managed to create a sophisticated packaging of a very homely product that has very clear Taiwan characteristics. “Their product manages to tell a number of stories,” he said in a phone interview with the Taipei Times.

For one of their product lines, a 150g bottle of the Taiwan No. 9 Peanut, Goodeatss uses recycled glass bottles for the packaging. “This ties in with a growing awareness of recycling. The lid is covered with floral-pattern cloth that harks back to an instantly recognizable Taiwanese textile tradition,” Shih said. He also pointed out that the use of a named type of peanut with clear links to a specific place in Taiwan also captures the imagination of consumers. “Apart from domestic consumers,” Shih said, “This product has become very popular with Chinese and Hong Kong visitors looking for something uniquely Taiwanese to take home.”

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