How We Got So Sweet
Making Friends with Uncle Ray's Peanut Brittle
My Great Uncle Ray is famous in Southeast Texas. He has been for over 30 years. That’s how long he’s been perfecting his peanut brittle and charming just about everyone West of the Mississippi. How does he do it? Well, if you ask Uncle Ray he’ll tell you it has to do with love—and love is sweet.
My story with Uncle Ray, and now yours, started like so many songs—a beginning coming from some other beginning’s end. Uncle Ray’s sister was my Grandma, and her passing marked a coming of age for me and opened up a window to see her brother’s Southern charm come to life, even as life seemed bittersweet.
Uncle Ray is quirky in temperament with a voice like caramel. He speaks in sweet Cajun phrases, seamlessly paired with country colloquialisms that bring about hearty chuckles from anyone listening. His charm finds its match inside of you and suddenly a friendship is born.
Let the love do the talking, baby!
That’s how our afternoon talks always started. His charm brought out the best in me like it might do for you. Something in Uncle Ray’s eye always said, “You’ve got gumption!” Uncle Ray is that way—encouraging without making a fuss about things. “Let the love do the talking, baby!”
And that’s how I came upon his secret peanut brittle recipe. It wasn’t written down, spoken aloud, or stored in a safe somewhere—he just start making it in front of me one day and I learned. The recipe is a part of him and his presence has been my greatest teacher.
Which is how Uncle Ray and I ended up helping a small community of locals far away in the South Pacific Islands. That look which Uncle Ray gave stirred something in you. A quick chat over peanut brittle and coffee planted the spirit of making a difference in the world deep within oneself. It led me to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji, peanut brittle in tow.
Uncle Ray always used his peanut brittle as a way to make new friends, and I took a call out of his playbook and shared it with anyone I met during my travels. There was something to this sugary treat that melted people of all cultures and allowed them to accept an outsider like me without question. We could all agree that there was something to love about showing up sweet.
Moving deeper into service to others allowed me to help a local family in Fiji, headed by a strong woman—Roshni. During my service in the Peace Corps, I learned so much about life, friendship, and the simple, pure, free love of one human to the next. While making so many friends, one, in particular, stood out. One I loved like family. Perhaps you’ve received that intuitive call to help at some point in your life? That call hit me hard—and I was ready to serve.
She’s got gumption!
There was Uncle Ray’s voice in my head, again.
Life has a way of humbling us all in such a wonderful way. Roshni knew nothing of computers, Google searches, managing an office, or business professional life. She was still discovering what self-worth really meant, not only as a person but as a woman. In that way, we were learning together. As I taught her vital business skills and how to believe in herself, she mirrored back to me what Uncle Ray had always seen in me—my own potential.
To me, true empowerment is simply believing in someone else—she could own a business, she could own a store, and she could own a home. And by empowering her - I empowered myself. Maybe I too could own these same things, one day.
Can’t, never could.
If you don’t believe you can, you won’t. That was the biggest gift of all from my service abroad—unlocking my belief in possibility, once again.
Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle had found its first international partner in Roshni. She would start a business around the sugary treat which had been 30 years in the making and that all of the locals I’d met had come to love. I put together a plan to raise money for her new life as a businesswoman. This was more than just peanut brittle, though, it was about her becoming the woman she wanted to be and giving her family a better life.
With the help of some good friends, the power of community, and a handful of peanut brittle to sweeten the deal along the way, we raised the funds for her to be able to start her new life.
Three years later, she is not only a business owner but a homeowner, as well.
Now it was my turn.
Back in the States, Uncle Ray was once again showing me how Southern charm and a sweet love for life were the keys that opened all doors.
That’s when the words fell out of my truly brilliant and kind mentor’s mouth; words that melted me to my core:
You’ve got somethin’, kid. Go share it.
And that brings us to where we are today.
Peanut brittle isn’t just a candy or a sweet treat to be savored. It’s to be shared over conversations that make you reflect on life. It’s a symbol of love’s potential—that sweet kind of love—the unconditional kind you find in your heart for friends, family, and the quirky strangers you meet along the way.
Uncle Ray’s peanut brittle isn’t just about satisfying a sugar fix. It’s about finding your potential and your people. Over Uncle Ray’s peanut brittle, you might just gain community with someone you didn’t expect; a common bond that surprises you but brings about the greatest gift of all—love.
Hopefully, it’s that sweet kind of love.
Please enjoy Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle and let it open you to new people, places, and ideas.
In Love I Hope You Trust,