Thursday, November 09, 2006

American Nuts

And no, I am not talking about silly tourists snapping pictures left and right and speaking three times louder than usual to people, as if they believe volume will aid the listener in understanding English.

What I'm talking about, actually, are pecans. Semicolon has declared November to be the month of the pecan (pronounced peh-CAHN). I don't remember noticing or paying attention to pecans much as I was growing up in Pennsylvania. I collected hazel nuts, and we bought bags of mixed nuts at Christmas, but pecans did not feature largely in any traditions or recipes of my childhood.

As an adult, I lived many years in northwest Florida (the panhandle part), where pecans grow prolifically. I learned to love them and enjoy pecan-based recipes, and I don't believe I ever paid for any of them. Everyone in those parts knows someone with a pecan tree or three, and they give them away by the brown-grocery-bag-full.

There was an enormous and productive pecan tree behind our church, and it supplied our entire church family with as many pecans as you wanted. Kids picked them up for you, too, before and after church, for a dollar or two, which most of them put in the offering anyway (nice kids!). You could take your nuts to the local producers and have the shells cracked in their machines for about 25 cents a pound, making the whole shelling process less painful, too. All you had to worry about, really, was finding enough recipes to make use of the pecan bounty.

After a few years, you tend to take that sort of thing for granted. Pecans? Yeah, sure, no big deal.

As Semicolon has pointed out on her blog, pecans are not grown commercially very many places, and especially not in Europe. I actually can go into the larger stores here and find imported pecans for sale. They call them "American nuts" (we do this, too--think of Brazil nuts or English walnuts), which seems appropriate. And the the price? Do you really want to know? About $8 per pound. In the shell. I don't really like pecans enough to pay that kind of money for them. I mean, steak, boneless pork loin, and dried pineapple slices (mmm) cost less than half of that.

So I don't buy them, and if I'm honest, I don't miss them, either. There are compensations.

You know how expensive walnuts are the States? Well, those are grown right here in Poland (although they call them Italian nuts for some inexplicable reason), and when they are in season (right now), they cost about 60 cents per pound. So, there's no contest.

Although I do miss those nice shell-cracking machines.


At 3:16 PM , Blogger Laura said...

I agree with your pronunciation! I can see why the price would make you avoid pecans in Poland. But have you ever made a pecan pie for any of your friends there? I'll bet they'd think they'd died and gone to heaven! (Or a sa friend of mine often says, "It's so good, you have to eat it lying down!"

At 11:15 PM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

I've never made a pecan pie here, because, besides the price of pecans, we also don't have corn syrup. It's a lost cause.

At 12:59 AM , Blogger Mother Auma said...

I dislike pecan pie myself, not being fond of anything nut-ish in desserts, but we have a couple of pounds of pecans (shelled) in the freezer for pecan pies this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mr. Honey is a pie man, you know.

I enjoy eating almonds, and can even tolerate them in desserts. Do you have almonds?

At 5:27 PM , Blogger Firefly said...

I grew up in New Hampshire and we pronounced them peh-CAHN as well. I didn't really think one way or another about them growing up until we moved to South Carolina where even my father has a pecan tree growing in his yard. To be honest, I can barely tell the difference between pecans and walnuts. I wonder what a walnut pie would taste like?


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