Emotional Baggage About a Bag of Holiday Nuts

Diamond Mixed Nuts

I don’t know about you, but I’m very careful with my nuts. I have to be. I’m not allergic or anything, but I hold dear a cabal of prejudices stemming from what amounts to early childhood traumas. And my particular brand of nut crazy kicks in big time at this time of year.

It started in November 1966, when we moved into our new home, which my dad built. My mother had a holiday tradition of setting out a bowl of Diamond mixed nuts in the shell on the low-slung living room coffee table. (Momma Leite was mightily influenced by mid-century Danish design.) My dad had his own ritual, which he brought over from Portugal: making an “X” in the bottom of a dozen or so chestnuts and tossing them in the oven.

Surrounded by mixed nuts, I grew curious. I grabbed the heavy etched nutcracker, the kind that could do damage to a two-pound lobster, and had at it. It was then I began to understand that not all nuts are created equal.

Let me break it down for you:

Walnuts were the hardest nut to crack. Anytime I tried to get one into the cracker, it ricocheted off glasses, vases, or the hi-fi, and eventually wobbled under the furniture, only to be found by my panic-stricken mother sometime in February. Read more »

Love Food

Love FoodToday marks 17 years that The One and I have been together (which is actually more like 30 in straight years). The way he tells it, it was my linens that clinched it for him.

In 1993 I bought my first bed. Before that, during college and just after, I made do with a futon or, on occasion, a pile of dirty laundry on the floor. But when I turned 32, I decided it was time to have a proper place to sleep. Bereft of the design gene my people are supposed to possess, I chose a ridiculously large model with massive head and foot boards. To camouflage this Victorian monstrosity, I purchased tons of pillows and one of those all-in-one matching linen sets that no matter how you use it, you can’t screw up—kind of like Garanimals for beds. Gold sheets with a barely perceptible floral pattern contrasted with a deep brown and burgundy coverlet and matching shams and neck rolls.

One look and he was smitten. All of his life The One wanted a bed with a headboard and lots of pillows so he could prop himself up, eat caviar, drink champagne, and read, “like Joan Collins,” he’s wont to say.

For me, it was his cooking that sealed the deal. Read more »

Singing Grocery List

Sound of Music

I have bad kid karma. Recently, a little tow-headed urchin, right out of Disney’s central casting, looked up at me on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 75th Street and yanked on his mother’s blouse.

“That man’s crazy, Mommy,” the precious one said. “He’s talking to himself.”

His mother took one look at me, wrapped her arm around her son’s shoulder, and scooped him closer to her. Granted, I hadn’t done my morning boudoir ablutions yet—I was still in my sweats, my hair certainly wasn’t bouncin’ and behavin’, and I was sporting a five o’clock shadow that was creeping toward 7:30. So when the light turned green and Precious Mom yanked the kid, he trailing behind her like a broken kite, and hurried across the street, I tried not to take it personally.

It would have been one thing had I been wearing a Bluetooth ear bud and been on the phone with Indonesia or was surfacing after a Lower-East-Side-four-in-the-morning boozefest. But the truth is I was on my way to shop for food, and I was singing my grocery list. Read more »

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