Along with almost everyone else at the time, I grew up in a house with nuts. Not my parents, of course, but actual nuts. Pecans, English walnuts, filberts, almonds, and Brazil nuts were usually found in one of those nut bowls with a place for the nutcracker and several picks in the center.
Ours had a rough bark-like edge around it which I didn’t much care for even then. I much preferred the scalloped edge nut basket that the Middletons had next door, with its mid-century modern meets colonial America vibe. In fact, the Middletons were rather exotic in lots of ways, being the only childless couple in the neighborhood even though they were probably in their thirties. Plus she worked as a registered nurse and, on top of it all, they were Catholic.
I never got the hang of shelling pecans. Too much pressure on the nutcracker led to a mess of broken shell, busted nuts, and insufficient patience to separate one from the other. English walnuts and filberts were much easier to crack, as were almonds, although I’ve never understood why there are no French walnuts or if hazelnuts are just filberts with an attitude.
Cracking Brazil nuts was the top of the nut shelling pyramid, and Daddy was a master at it. He could feel one of those obstinate characters and know how many cracks would be needed and exactly where to place them to break the shell and deliver the nugget. I credited this talent to his having been brought up in Louisiana, where he also learned how to make warts disappear.
Anyone using one of those nut bowl relics today is probably being ironic or deliberately kitschy. Instead, we’re more likely to find shelled nuts, rather than whole ones, residing in crystal or silver nut dishes, salted or unsalted (the nuts, that is, not the dishes) if they are on offer.
I like to serve nuts but quit serving mixed nuts ages ago. Back before they became “Extra Fancy” and “Premium,” mixed nuts would include peanuts. Serving them meant one would collect the nut dishes scattered around the house and find lonely little peanuts having been picked over for more precious morsels, reminding me of Janis Ian and choosing sides for basketball.
Cashews are my favorite nut, so that’s what you get at our house. If you like cashews, take one off the top. Don’t like cashews? Have a goldfish. No sad memories, and I’m happy to eat what’s left.
I thought I had done away with mixed nuts in my life, but along came 2021. Although 2020 was a completely nutty year, COVID was the nut—the cashew, if you will—around which almost all of the nuttiness revolved, including schools, shopping, and social events. Even the presidential election, as well as the then president, was dancing to the COVID tune.
But now we’re back to mixed nuts, where the COVID/cashew is still available but surrounded by a bunch of other nuts. The Bigly Lie. (Would someone ask Donald Trump if “bigly” can be used incorrectly as an adjective or is it only correctly incorrect to use it as an adverb?) Billionaire space shuttles. Glenn Close losing another Oscar. We’ve even reached the nutty place where it is necessary to explain to some folks that a riot is when windows get broken at Starbucks, but crashing through the doors and windows at the Capitol is an insurrection.
The trouble for me this week is the pistachio in the nut dish. AOC (no name needed) wore that “Tax the Rich” gown to the Met Gala, and I must admit it gave me pause. Why would an elected member of the House of Representatives use her back as a billboard to promote a policy position? She can legitimately take to the floor in Congress and do that.
What she did seemed unseemly to me, but then I realized that AOC had done something I’ve criticized Democrats for years for not doing. Democrats talk in paragraphs and think in term papers. Republicans, on the other hand, talk and too often think in sound bites. AOC in three words on a dress had reduced a complex issue—the funding of the federal government—to a bumper sticker.
It is likely the most Republican thing the congresswoman has ever done.