When I was in eleventh grade I went to Manhattan for the first time. First time on a subway, first time to a Broadway play and first time eating street food. Being that it was winter, on many of the corners, there were many carts that sold Chestnuts. Well, after walking out of Macy's (of course I HAD to go, after all I couldn't resist having grown up on Miracle on 34 street), I could no longer resist, and since I had already eaten NY Pizza, Ny Cheesecake and NY bagels, I decided it was time to have some NY Chestnuts.
I figured they had to be amazing... someone had dedicated an entire memorable line of a beloved Christmas song to it..
As the frosty vender shoveled a few of those dark brown beauties into a little paper sack, my mouth watered in anticipation. I was so delighted at the taste that lay ahead.
I know it may be just me... but the best thing about Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is the line in the song. What a disappointment. They weren't' horrible but they certainly weren't nuts. they didn't taste like walnuts, pecans or my then favorite at the time Brazil nuts. They were hot and squishy, not crunchy and satisfying. It was like eating a mushy kneaded eraser-- with a flavor that was indescribable, but not like a nut. Where I had been disappointed that the NY vender had not given me enough of those little brown beauties when I bought them, I was now miffed that I had to throw so many of them into the NY trash can.
Well, that was many years ago, and since then I have learned to like many foods I would have turned up my nose to as a fifteen year old. Sushi, pate and Chitterlings... okay, I lied-- I always liked Chitterlings. But suffice it to say, I figured it might be time to give those old chestnuts roasing another shot... and even though they were done in the commissary oven and brought out to the steam table in one of those long metal pans at the office Christmas party, when my friend said, "Ooh, I've never had a Chestnut before" I decided it was time to try them again. We each grabbed one and stood over a trashcan while the DJ played unseasonal 80's music (I suppose as not to offend anyone who might be bent out of shape because he didn't play their favorite Kwanza tune) And joined a random young man who also had not ever had chestnuts roster on an open fire, or any fire for that matter.'
The concusses was unanimous. three unilateral thumbs down.
It still was still warm, and it still wasn't a nut-- however my friend described it perfectly. "it tastes like lima beans"
I don't have a problem with lima beans-- but not when Im expecting a nut. It made me think of all the greatest PR jobs ever done or ever will be is the one done by the Torme and Wells song. Perhaps if they were still alive they could take a pass through the entire unpopular produce in the vegetable aisle.
Imagine the eventual bump in sales for Turnip and Dandelion greens. Children would be banging their tiny slender fists on the table singing the familiar words
July and turnips, Barbecue style
Parsnips on picknicks
Sunshine kissed smiles"
So many family dinner time arguments could be averted if only there was a new songwriter to champion the cause of unloved but good for you foods. Sigh...
Oh but that is just a pipe dream, a wish for something that can never be... like me ever eating a chestnut again.