Monday, December 20, 2010
the social [nut]work
the other week, i was feeling nostalgic for the christmas's of my youth. as a child most holidays were spent at my grandparents house visiting cousins, aunts and uncle's. i specifically remember, during the holidays, both sets of grandparents would have large bowls of mixed nuts sitting out. the un-cracked kind, the kind which required a set of dentist-like tools to open them up to enjoy. which got me thinking, "does anyone even buy whole nuts anymore?" for the life of me i couldn't remember the last time i had seen nuts laying out anywhere. with the vast boxes of mixed, already-shelled nuts, that are passed around during the season, i decided this would be how i could bring some nostalgia back into chirstmas. i would buy a big bag of mixed nuts, and have them lying out just like my grandparents did.
first thing i needed to locate was a nut cracker. i have a large drawer of utensils in my kitchen collected from various graduations gifts and past roommates. under the whisk, and to my disbelief, i actually had a nut cracker. i have no idea from who or where it came, but i had one. next, to find the nuts. i visited the local grocer, and sure enough, sitting amongst the fruit, was a huge bin of nuts. as i scooped up an even amount of pecans, brazil nuts, walnuts, and almonds i thought to myself, "maybe this isn't as lost of an art as i once thought". this had all been way too easy.
at home is when the adventure really began. i poured the nuts into a large bowl, readied my cracker and went to town. it went horrible. nuts, as it turns out, are hard to crack. not only did i pinch my fingers and scraped my knuckles, but when i finally got the nuts out, they were nothing but mush. chewing on the few pieces i salvaged, i would occasional hurt my teeth, by apparently biting into a piece which should have been removed. in the end, not only did i have bits of shell all over the place, but to top it all off, they weren't even that tasty. i found whole experience, to literally be, a pain in the nuts.
i related this story to friends and family, who all remembered nuts being apart of the holidays. after laughing at my misfortune, it was discovered i was missing two key elements of the whole nut-cracking art. first of all, i did not have all the tools. i needed a little picker, a tool normally found in a set which would help remove the nut in a tidier fashion. the second item i was forgetting, and probably the most important, was the fact that nut-cracking was more of a social action instead of a simple snacking activity. most nut-cracking sets included one "cracker" and four "pickers". this was so a group of people could sit around a table, crack the nut, and spend the majority of time picking out the correct parts, all the time socializing with the other people around the table.
as it turned out, the social aspect is what made the whole thing nostalgic and a little bit of a lost art. i remember my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles sitting around the table talking, chatting, drinking, and laughing. the nuts were merely a means to that conversation, and that's the part i miss the most. people still like to keep their hands busy, but in this day in age, it's filled with texting, gaming, or whatever app was recently purchased. activities that kill conversation with the people actually in the room.
that being said, my goal this christmas is to try to get friends and family to replace their iphones and androids with pecans and filberts...but only after i check to see if there's a "nut-cracking guide" app out there.