Monday, November 23, 2015

Chocked Full o' Nuts 

It's that time of year when chestnuts appear in grocery stores here in T.O. From now until early January they should be good (i.e. not mouldy or dried out etc.) For whatever reason the best ones seem to come from Italy. There's something kind of romantic about chestnuts that I love. They've got history and tradition. As far back as the 18th century, a hot chestnut falling into a pair britches caused a calamitous episode in The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman. Victorians seemed to take roasted chestnuts on winter walks, and in 1940s, movie characters warmed their hands at a street vendor's stove while buying a small bag to snack on. They're mentioned in seasonal songs, and in the fall squirrels shake them from trees onto unsuspecting passersby. Here in Toronto some neighbourhoods are thick with chestnut trees and when the chestnuts fall to the street, the mashed nuts make a slippery obstacle for the cyclist to avoid.

Like hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts are a perfect match for autumn and winter. I've never soaked them in water before like the video above mentions but I'll try it on the batch I just bought. I don't know why, but I find if I buy and keep them at home too long they seem to dry out too quickly so I usually only buy enough for a couple of snacks. It's particularly nice on a cold evening to place warm chestnuts in a bowl and keep them in your lap almost like the way people used to carry a couple of hot chestnuts to keep their hands and pockets warm on a frosty walk through an icy dark night.



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