Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nuts: The holiday slow food

The New York Times sort of beat me to it on this post. I scribbled a post on nuts in early December and forgot about it until reading this.

Ah well.

My take on nuts goes more with the gorgeous photo they ran, shown here at left (now is a good time to credit the photo to Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times). But where the Times delved into the health benefits of nuts, my thoughts were on the old world/slow food beauty of the nut still in its shell.

We always have nuts around. Of the already-been-shelled variety, almonds, plain and smoked, and peanuts (GORP is a favorite household snack) are in steady supply. There's always a small tin of nuts in my glove box. A handful of nuts has gotten my children (by “my children” I mean me) through many an episode of food anxiety.*

In the summer we eat a lot of peanuts in the shell - either at Wrigley or at home watching the game on WGN. Sunflower seeds, also in the shell, are a summer snack when we’re camping or on a road trip. But it’s the holiday nuts that I get really excited about. Each year, right around November 1, I pull down a pewter challis from its perch on the shelf above my cookbooks and fill it with mixed nuts - walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts - all in their pretty shells. We have a growing fleet of nutcrackers. My favorite is a wooden screw turning one that I got my daughter out of a Montessori catalog.

Maybe it’s the excitement of the season, but something about cracking my own nuts and enjoying no more than five or six of them in one sitting makes for a delightful seasonal tradition. And this is what slow food is really all about - slowing down, enjoying our food more. It’s not about munching a handful of nuts between frenzied errands around town. And yes, by "munching" I meant "shoveling into one's mouth."

Slow down this season. Enjoy your food, whatever it may be.

*food anxiety - [food ang-zahy-i-tee] -noun
1. Distress or psychic tension caused by fear of one’s next meal not coming quickly enough.

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