Nuts to you, too

Friday, November 26, 2010

This column is being written early in Thanksgiving week because of holiday deadlines, but you will be reading it after a day of overeating and watching football. I'll try to make sense of it all. It's the least I can do.

Some of you will be eating more than one Thanksgiving feast. Some of you started last weekend. Some of you will eat more than one big meal that includes turkey on the same day.

Good for all of you. Eat. Enjoy.

If you got to go to Aunt Lucille's for her turkey and dressing and cranberry relish and mashed potatoes and gravy and hot yeast rolls and green bean casserole and all the rest, I hope you took a moment to thank her, and to thank God that you have an Aunt Lucille.

This is the first Thanksgiving in our lives that my wife and I have no aunts ready to stuff us fatter than a turkey on Turkey Day. So we will make our own holiday. Goodness knows we won't go hungry.

This holiday week got off to a grand start when Diana, the hairstylist who does her darndest to make my white hair respectable, presented me with a baggie loaded with her homemade fudge. Not only is it fantastic fudge, but it's loaded with black walnuts, a favorite of both her dad and me.

Black walnuts are a major cash crop in Missouri. The Ozarks over yonder are full of walnut trees. Last month we drove to a state park just over the state line in Arkansas. Walnut trees were scattered all over the park. We watched some of the locals filling buckets with walnuts that had just fallen to the ground. They were wearing gloves and using special pick-up scoops.

If you've never messed with walnuts in the wild, you may not know that they fall off the tree covered in a baseball-sized green husk. That husk will indelibly stain just about anything it touches, including your skin. Experienced walnut harvesters take great care to avoid contact with the green husks.

Some people let the new walnut crop mature until the husks dry up, making them less of a nuisance. Then they put them in gunny sacks and drive over them, using the car's tires to break off the husks. A black walnut's shell is like missile-deflecting armor. It takes a good whack with a hammer to break the shell.

When I was a boy a windstorm blew down the big cherry tree by the chicken house. The cherry tree's stump became the walnut-cracking spot, since our walnut tree was just a few feet away. I spent many a Thanksgiving week cracking walnuts -- and my thumb -- and picking walnuts to be used in the cranberry relish and a holiday batch of fudge.

There are all kinds of nuts -- and I'm not talking about politicians and weird relatives. I like just about any kind of nut -- the edible ones -- you can imagine. Come to think of it, I like a lot of the nutty politicians and weird relatives, too.

Good thing. I'll probably be eating Thanksgiving dinner with all kinds of nuts.

Joe Sullivan is the former editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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