Robert Deen (MA, Information and Communication Studies, ’81) is a former US Marine officer, parachutist, and scuba diver, and a distinguished honor graduate of the Department of Defense Information School. After completing his bachelor’s from Oregon State University and a master’s at Chico State, he founded what became California’s largest independently owned public relations agency.
Now living the retired life in the Pacific Northwest, Deen still pines for the boiled peanuts of his southern youth. A quest for the savory snack spurred him to write The Boiled Peanut Book, released this summer. It includes a brief history, cooking tips, and recipes such as Hawaiian style, beer-boiled, garlic, jalapeño, garam masala, and Vietnamese, along with ideas for using the boiled legume as an ingredient in soup, cookies, and ice cream.
Deen encourages his fellow Wildcats to buy some green peanuts online and enjoy one of the “greatest treats life offers.” His book is available on Amazon.
How did your degree from Chico State contribute to your career success?
The program gave me an exposure to statistics and public opinion polling, which came in very useful later in my [public relations] career. An advanced degree was also useful in establishing credibility with the senior and older executives that I often worked with as a young man. The connections with the professors in the communications department ultimately turned out to be perhaps the biggest contributor to my later success, particularly when it came to help with recruiting.
What did you enjoy about running a public relations agency and working in that field?
When you own and run a business, you can do things your way. Succeed or fail, it’s on you. I wanted to do things my way and was willing to accept the consequences, good or bad. As far as running a public relations agency, it really gave me the chance to be around great people and top talent.
How is promoting boiled peanuts similar to your work in PR?
It’s only similar in that what I’ve been doing is the media relations work that I’m comfortable with and enjoy. But it’s become a social media world, and that’s not something I do much. If I was really going to be that aggressive about it, I’d do my thing but hire some young people to do the social media marketing they know so well.
What are the most challenging parts about being a boiled peanut fan and promoter?
That might be that almost nobody in the Western United States has ever heard of a boiled peanut, much less tried one. I guess it’s a positive that it’s a novelty, so that’s interesting. On the other hand, some people think you’re nuts (no pun intended). Oddly, the biggest obstacle is people’s reluctance to try something new. You wouldn’t think it would be that way because people talk a good game about being open-minded and willing to try something new. But you find that’s just talk, all foam and no beer.
What’s next for you?
That’s a good question. Opportunities just seem to appear. I think it’s more important to be ready to take advantage of them when they do happen rather than try to plan things too much. I’ll probably go back to writing on outdoor subjects, since that combines two of my main interests in life. But you never know.
Cajun Boiled Peanuts
PREP TIME: 8–24 HRS. | COOK TIME: 6 HRS. | MAKES 12 CUPS
- 1 cup Cajun seasoning
- 4 pounds raw green peanuts
- 1 cup salt
- 10–14 tablespoons liquid Cajun crab boil
- Combine seasoning, peanuts, and water in a large stockpot. Cover and soak for 8–24 hours. Drain and rinse.
- Put peanuts, salt, and crab boil in a pot with 9 quarts of water and bring to boil.
- Reduce to medium-low heat and cook until peanuts are tender, 6 hours or so, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed to keep peanuts submerged.
- Let stand one hour after removing from heat.
- Serve immediately, or store for up to 1 week refrigerated in cooking liquid.
(Adapted from The Boiled Peanut Book)