Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 1, 2012

Pine nuts: local food, slow food

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:27 pm
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Pine nut shells, whole seeds, and the end result. A labor of love.

My desire to eat locally-grown foods and to support family enterprises led me to pull over at the roadside card table selling pine nuts. A young girl stood guard over her supply of pre-measured zip-loks: “Eight dollars, or three for twenty,” she intoned hopefully. The bags looked pitifully small. I said I wanted to know everything about how they collected them.

Her mother explained the process of gathering the green cones (in all their sticky sappy splendor) off the pinyon trees in early August, drying them, and whacking the nuts out. Instantly I recalled that early August was when I began seeing rodent-chewed green pine cones on the ground, far before I expected the seeds to be edible. Chipmunks know these things.

Treasure!

I promptly bought a bag for the sheer joy of it all.

At home, spreading the treasure on the kitchen table, we strategized. Cracking the shells without damaging the seed inside was our goal; I resorted to a garlic press and a one-at-a-time approach while Chris tried a rolling pin over the whole lot. One small nut at a time, fingernails pressed into cracks and gingerly separated the shells. Conversation flowed quietly, gently, with frequent pauses to assess our progress. It was slow, slow, slow.

Our fingertips were awfully tender after an hour of prying, with not even a half cup of product. The ancestral people, whose diet included this 3000-calorie-per-pound staple, must have had a whole lot of time on their hands and few distractions. We elected to move on to the final step of roasting in a skillet on the stove until they released their nutty aroma. A sprinkle of water and salt in the pan finished the evening’s work. The result: tasty, simple, healthful, and deeply satisfying.

Taking the time to prepare slow foods causes me to savor the result so much more, knowing how labor-intensive the process is. Whether it’s a multi-step lasagna, a long-simmering soup, or doing something yummy with the insides of your Halloween jack-o-lantern, I encourage you to try slowing down your food preparation — just for the heck of it. The mindful process is a joy in itself.

Leave a comment: What story do you have about trying to prepare a new, complicated, or unusual menu item?

 

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