The weather finally cools. We pull out our throws, light the fire, rake the leaves, bake the pumpkin bread. Our change-of-season rituals. Before long the jack-o-lantern gives way to the turkey, ultimately giving way
to the greens and the reds and the silvers and gold of the aging year. To acknowledge the season, the moment...the passage of time. We hold fast and tight to these traditions, their rhythms and their certitude. The sense of sweet belonging to communal ritual and experience, our collective stories with their seasonal reference.
But some traditions are exclusive to our own homes and little domesticities. Among them in MY home...
is a wooden nut bowl. It arrives in mid-October usually, the peak of football season....when bulk nuts-in-the-shell become available at grocery stores and markets. By this time, having fought back marauding squirrels in the garden for weeks,
we finally adopt an 'if you can't beat them, join them' mentality and become squirrel-like ourselves,
cracking the almonds and hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts...even the occasional vexing Brazil nut.
Like the messy squirrels, we scatter our shell debris everywhere. Fine powdery bits and sharp edged
chunks sure to find an unsuspecting bare foot at some point during the season. All worth the effort though...
to hear that cracking sound...to reveal the sweet meat inside....occasionally the pleasant satisfaction of producing a whole nut, intact and unbruised...
unfazed by the violent fracking process.
I don't roast our whole nuts before eating, though I have fond memories of a surrogate mother in my college years (when I lived far from home and family) who did. The roasted nuts ever present in HER nut bowl on the kitchen counter...just a little something to tide me over until she fed my orphaned self her lasagna or meatballs or roast chicken; the dinner remains sent home with me to morph the following morning into a cold breakfast straight (and greatly enjoyed) from the fridge.
The wooden nut bowl in these pictures belonged to my second mother. I squirreled it away during the process of emptying out our family home a few years ago.
I posted an image of this sentimental relic on Instagram, eliciting a nostalgic response from L'il
Sis who cited memories, no doubt good and bad, it resurrected. I had another nut bowl, a smaller one with a recognizable and distinctive rough bark exterior (a sign of its vintage and provenance) which belonged to my first mother.
One of the very few precious possessions passed on to her children. I gifted it to one of her
grandchildren, who have even fewer touchstones to her memory, her life, her existence.
I didn't give my nuts bowl's presence in our home much thought until recently. I had become accustomed to it, enured to its spot on the table...
taking it for granted like so many other fixtures, seasonal and not, in our home.
Until Thanksgiving that is, when one of our good friends remarked on it. He hadn't seen one in years, he said. Didn't
know his filbert from his almond, his pecan from his walnut. Neither did his children. A brief lesson ensued...(So THIS is what an almond in its shell looks like they marveled out loud...)...quietly and momentarily intrigued by the humble bowl of nuts.
Thus I too became newly acquainted with its personality in my kitchen. Its role as memory keeper, seasonal clarion, comfort giver.
Worthy of notice.
Worthy of appreciation.
Another delicious gift of a fleeting season.
A simple, sensual indulgence.