Alex, I was going to edit with a machete but changed my mind. Thanks, First Born!
Oh man- look at that bowl of roasted nuts over there. What a great looking mix… The large, rounded shapes of the walnuts are in stark contrast to the smaller, sleeker almonds, and the deep brown of the chestnuts provide for a nice break from the light tan of the rest of the nutshells. Clearly, whoever roasted this nut mix is a professional, a life-long lover of nuts who knows exactly what they want and doesn’t waste their time on anything else, as evidenced by the complete (and welcome) absence of brazil nuts and cashews. Notice also the lack of peanuts- while delicious in their own right either out of the shell or in butter form, they are neither a true nut nor a holiday nut, and therefore have no place in this mix. Despite the festive ceramic bowl with the Christmas tree motif, I suspect that these nuts were not placed there just as decor. No no- these nuts were meant to be enjoyed. To get at the sweet nutmeat inside, those shells are going to have to be dealt with quickly and efficiently, and that means that I’m going to have to crack ’em. God, I can’t wait to crack those nuts.
Now, I know that some people prefer not to use an ornate nutcracker like me. Some people like to use those silver nutcrackers that crack the nut in your hand. Some people think that nutcrackers like me are gaudy ornamentations better suited to festooning mantelpieces than cracking nuts. Let me tell you something, though- people who think those things are impatient savages. They would sooner eat a tin of mixed nuts from the dollar store than take the time to roast a holiday nut blend of their own design. In the same way that a vintage Bordeaux ought to be sipped rather than gulped, a fine nut ought to take time to eat. How else could one possibly hope to enjoy the rich texture of the meat, or the subtle lemony overtones, or the complex bouquet unleashed when the nut is cracked? They can’t, quite simply put. This is why I am so useful- I am a liaison between nutlovers and the nuts they love. I help them focus on the process of eating a nut, from start to finish. Without me, they may as well have a packet of stale beer nuts from the local pub. I also add an air of professionalism to the nut proceedings- note the beefeater hat and many-buttoned jacket. I do not wear these things because they are comfortable, or stylish. I wear them because they allow a nut to be presented with the dignity that it deserves. I wear them because I am a nutcracker, and I love what I do.
You have no idea how much I love cracking nuts. There is nothing in the world as satisfying to me as putting a nut in my mouth and gnashing my teeth down on it so hard that the shell splinters. Don’t let me give you the wrong impression about my nutcracking, though. There’s a lot more finesse required for nutcracking than most people realize. Very few nut connoisseurs use the brute force nutcracking methods of days of yore. After a while of smacking at nuts with hammers, it just gets old. It’s too messy, too imprecise. With a hammer, it’s so difficult to gauge the true force with which nuts are cracked, and cracking a nut too hard might damage the meat inside. Walnuts, for example, don’t require very much force to crack at all. Crack a walnut too hard, and you’ll be digging through bits of shell for seven, maybe even eight minutes before you find the meat you seek. But, if you crack a walnut just right, the shell will split down the middle, allowing you to pluck the meat out and eat it in one satisfying bite. Almonds, of course, are different beasts entirely. If you want to, you can really take out your pent-up frustrations on an almond. You see, the meat’s almost as hard as the shell, so you can really go nuts when you crack an almond! Heh- sorry… That joke always goes over huge with the nutcracking crowd.
Look, you seem skeptical. Don’t let me pressure you into anything. It was in no way my intention to flap at the jaw like this for so long- I guess I got carried away. It’s nice to be passionate about what you do. It provides a sense of fulfillment that I’m afraid most people don’t get to experience, and I pity them. Every time someone puts a nut in my mouth, I nearly jump with glee at the chance to crush it. I am so lucky! Not only am I a nutcracker, but I love cracking nuts. Each nut in my mouth is it’s own adventure, just waiting to happen, and I am like an unshaven and relatively young Harrison Ford, only I crack nuts instead of using a whip to swing over chasms. If nuts were moons, then I would be the United States and Russia during the 1960’s, for my passion for nutcracking is so great that no one nation could contain it. If nuts were the golden fleece of mythological lore, then I would be Jason and the Argonauts, willing to do anything for the sake of cracking nuts. I would go to the ends of the earth and back again for nuts. You know why? Because I love what I do. Now then, won’t you have a nut?
Thank you Alex Berg for this delightful and timely post. Alex is now the artistic director of The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles and a successful budding actor/writer/comedian/producer/director…and my son.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/dizzygirl/2071687744/”>Dizzy Girl</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>