I love cold weather; in fact, I’m the nerd that anxiously awaits the first snow. But more than snow, I love the whole fall and winter season. Our family has heralded in the cooler weather by going to the pumpkin patch, getting apple cider and roasting chestnuts. It’s one of our favorite traditions.
As such, in late September, I began to look for chestnuts at the grocery store - to no avail. For weeks I looked, but none of the stores in my town had any. Finally, I called a local produce stand. That’s when I found out that the hurricane wiped out groves of trees here in the north. I was warned that even if they could get them, they would be expensive.
I was having chestnut withdrawals, so I decided to go online and found that the weather hadn’t affected the elusive morsels on the west coast. They weren’t, however, cheap. In withdrawal and willing to pay, I placed my order for three pounds; an expensive splurge if ever there was one. I watched the mail like a hawk.
A box arrived, but it was awfully small; that couldn’t be the package I’d anxiously awaited. Sadly, my vision of what three pounds should look like was a little skewed. I expected a box filled with an armful of the little buggers. Instead, they came in a red netted bag that I could fit into a half gallon of tea.
Matt looked at it and said, “So THAT’S what $30 worth of chestnuts looks like.” I just smiled; because that’s what I told him they cost. They cost more than that, but I’d tell him later.
I’ve learned over the years to tell him the truth a little bit at a time – it keeps his head from exploding. It can take as much as a month before he finds out “the rest of the story”.
Looking at my (literal) treasures, I remembered the first time I ever roasted them. I’d had them at a festival somewhere, but it had been years ago. I had no clue what steps needed to be taken to insure yummy chestnut goodness. But since when has that stopped me?
I turned the oven on, and arranged my chestnuts on a baking sheet. I didn’t know how hot the oven needed to be, so I decided to be cautious and only set it for 325 degrees.
I was proud of my restraint. I eagerly anticipated the tantalizing smells to come wafting from my oven.
After about ten minutes, I heard a loud pop; I thought someone had shot a gun. Then came another pop, then another, until it sounded like popcorn exploding in the microwave. What in the word was happening?
I located the origin of the noise - my oven. Not thinking, I opened the door just in time for a chestnut to go flying through the air, narrowly missing my eye and close enough to feel the breeze in my hair. It ricocheted off the wall, and headed straight for the ceiling fan, where it took out one of the lights. Shattered glass rained down all over the floor.
At this point, normal people would think to close the oven door, electing to open it only after the noise had stopped. My brain, however, froze as I stared at chestnuts bouncing all over the interior of my oven while the more ambitious ones began to take out my kitchen. I’m not sure how long it took until they stopped, but it seemed like forever.
There were little chestnut pieces all over the interior of the oven, on my walls; some even clung to the ceiling. There were remnants in my hair and some were clinging to my wool sweater. What little was left of the shells were all over the oven and my floor.
I stood there for several moments, gawking at the destruction that two dozen chestnuts had wreaked.
Turns out, you’re supposed to score them to release steam. If not, they turn into admirable, and effective, projectile objects; a fact that I’d inadvertently proven.
I wonder if MacGyver ever used an un-scored chestnut as a weapon. It took about a week to get the mess completely clean and Matt never tires of laughing about the day those “evil” chestnuts nearly blew the house up.
It’s been a few years, and I still haven’t found the perfect way to roast chestnuts but I’ve never forgotten to score them. Then a friend told me that her mother made the best chestnuts by cooking them in the pressure cooker. Hey, I have one of those! What’s the worst that could happen?
On second thought, never mind.
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