Monday, July 14, 2008

My Pistachio Story

Here's the story. I really really like pistachios. They're definitely in my nut top 5. They share elite space with cashews and pecans, and they easily beat other high-profile premium nuts like walnuts and macadamias.

The only problem with pistachios, as we all know, is that they are a bitch to get out of the shell. Only about half the nuts in the bag will open easy. Another 40% will be a real hassle, and the final 10% impossible. We've all been there. And yet prying open a stubborn shell and claiming its salty reward has a certain satisfaction that is undeniable. When I eat pistachios, the dilemma is usually: eat this single nut now? Or open three more shells so I can pop four of them into my mouth at once, peanut style? It is a subtle but serious test of my will power, because the desire to eat the nut in hand is always so strong, but the pleasure of having a mouthful of pistachios is that much better.

And that's the thing. I've never experienced the bliss of stuffing my face with mouthful after mouthful of de-shelled pistachios. I've crammed many a mouthful of cashews into my maw, believe me. I've grabbed and eaten peanuts by the bowlful. But pistachios? No, I've never known the experience of grabbing a handful and stuffing my face - due to the labor factor.

And so for years, I have dreamed of doing just that - stuffing my face with de-shelled pistachios. Maybe you, reader, have different dreams. This one was mine. And every time I would visit a supermarket, I would casually scan the produce and nut section, looking for the elusive holy grail - a bag of de-shelled pistachios. But in years of looking, I never found it.

Until last weekend, where at a trip to Trader Joes I spied what I had searched for, at long last: a bag of raw pistachio nutmeats.

Now, a word on Trader Joes and hippie supermarkets in general. I'm of mixed mind here. I like the product that they sell. But I have two issues. Why do Trader Joes shoppers have to be so insufferable? And secondly - why the exclusivity? Consider: I like Chef Boyardee mini raviolis. I like fruit loops. And, I also like local artisan cheeses and Orangina. Why can't I have both at the same place? Which is to say, why is it not enough that Trader Joes carries a great stock of organic, local, environmentally safe hippie food - why do they also have to exclude doritos? Whole Foods has the same problem. I like Whole Foods, I really do. But I also like Diet Coke. Why can't I have a one stop shop? But anyways....

Back to the holy grail of nutmeat. I had my de-shelled pistachios, finally. Courtesy of Trader Joe. You really have to imagine the excitement as I got home and poured a generous helping of the de-shelled kernels into a broad and deep nut bowl. I switched on the TV, grabbed a soda, and prepared to do what I had never done before: stuff my face with huge handfuls of pistachios, with no labor involved at all.

And now here is where we get to the point of the story. For believe me, I did indeed stuff my face. Over and over. I was barely graduating the previous mouthful of nuts before I was introducing the next freshman class. As Fat Bastard said in Austin Powers: "Get in ma belly!"

And then it hit me: this doesn't taste that great. I mean, it was all right. They weren't bad. But the explosion of flavor from a single nut fresh from the shell didn't seem to translate well to the face-stuffing experience. It was a bit like drinking a cold can of cream soda. The taste is exquisite on the first sip, but then rapidly loses flavor on each subsequent sip, until the bottom of the can just tastes like carbonated sugar water. (Maybe I'm the only one who experiences cream soda that way). But it was the same with pistachios. Now that I finally had my unlimited supply and could scarf them down to my heart's content, I discovered that the flavor doesn't hold up at all. In the end, eating these things became a crunchy chore.

Apparently, some foods are enjoyed best in small, dainty quantities. The pistachio shell, which to me had always been an annoying speed bump in the pistachio experience, turns out in hindsight to have been crucial to the enjoyment. I would have never guessed that. From now on, I'll enjoy my pistachios the old fashioned way: one at a time.

(But I'll still stuff my face with the spicy jalapeno-lime cashews. I can fucking drink those things.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

GREAT post!!!!!!