November 8th, 2010
friday (an ode to roasted chestnuts)

cold, damp, wet.

unable to get warm.

a long school day.

playing. hands covered in charcoal.

class dismissed. a walk to get food for dinner. the public market.

some fish. potatoes. good cheese. olives stuffed with lemon.

on my way out I smell them cooking on a cart.

roasted chestnuts.

small talk with an elderly man who stirs the nuts with a metal spoon and tells me they will be a few more minutes (“they are not done until they are soft and chewy inside”). we talk mostly about the weather and how it’s warmer here than back east. he wears one white glove on his left hand (I learned later it was so he could put the hot nuts into the small paper bag, while holding the bag with his ungloved hand).

I hand him six dollars.

he hands me a bag of nuts and they warm my hands all the way down the street.

my reward.

they smell smoky as I peel the shell off and I bite into their strange chewy texture. I am hooked.

I think I have a new addiction.

both my husband and sister feel they are they are one of the more challenging things (read: disgusting) they have ever consumed.

I’ve been dreaming about them at night.

sadly the dog ate the last four I was saving for the next day.

but it’s okay.

I’m going back next week.

and I have all week to be excited about it.

addendum: I found a very interesting post about roasted chestnuts in Spain.

Nov 8 2010
5:55 am
Danielle writes:

I love your posts, especially your wonderful descriptions about “ordinary things”. (of course, they are not ordinary, they are always special for someone, like chestnuts for you and your dog)
thank you for your inspiration!

Nov 8 2010
12:25 pm
wild roses grow writes:

This post took me back… Although I’ve never been to your part of the world, I lived in France for a number of years. The thing I remember most about Europe is the fact that the seasons were so distinct. Summer was hot and dry, spring was all about soft, pastel blossoms, autum with the ochre yellows, oranges and reds and winter looked like an etching in brown. There was a chestnut seller around the corner from where I stayed. You could smell the roasting from my apartment and I always knew that winter had arrived.

And yes, they are addictive.

Nov 8 2010
12:55 pm
Maria writes:

Roasted chestnuts are one of my family’s traditions!
It vividly reminds me of my childhood.
When my mom would walk in the house, we’d always go over and hug her, take the bags that she’s carrying from her hands, and rummage through them like Meeko (the raccoon from Pocahuntas).
But the days we find a bag of chestnuts, the crowd goes wild.
We roast them ourselves.

I always feel like I’m doing surgery on the chestnut whenever I crack its shell, maybe because of its brain-like shape.

Nov 8 2010
12:56 pm
Maria writes:

I forgot to mention, we call them castanas.

Nov 8 2010
3:35 pm
Zom G. writes:

Early winter with holiday lights, a warm scarf, and a castagne vendor near is more holiday cheer than I know what to do with. They grind into a fabulous flour for baked goods too. And of course, without fail, they remind me of this painter.

Time to pull the ones I’ve squirreled away in the freezer out and into introduce them to my oven. Such a lovely post!

{And Maria, walnuts always make me feel like a neurosurgeon too!}

Nov 8 2010
5:18 pm
chiqui writes:

castanas. i have yet to try the freshly roasted ones. they taste like boiled peanuts though.

Nov 8 2010
6:42 pm
Christopher writes:

I lived in Madrid as an undergraduate. I know the smell and the sensation of eating a warm roasted chestnut. Thanks for the trip down amnesia lane! Sense memories can be so strong! Your blog is fantastic, thanks for doin what you do. :)

Nov 9 2010
12:32 am
pixie writes:

Alex! I love reading about your addictions.

Nov 9 2010
1:51 pm
Angela writes:

Oh, how I miss roasted chestnuts! The castanera use to set her drum in the corner below my parents home. So, so good… Thanks for the sweet memory!

Following Maria’s family tradition and roasting my own sounds like a good idea… um…

Nov 9 2010
2:59 pm
francesca dileo writes:

hey keri, love this post. and like maria’s post earlier, eating roasted, ‘castagna’, as we call it in italian is a winter tradition. my mother buys them at the supermarket, she splits one side of the shell with a knife (to make it easier to crack open to eat and took soften the meat inside), and roasts them in the oven on a baking sheet. There are always roasted chestnuts around my mothers table. especially at christmas time. playing italian card games, and eating castagna. sweet memories.

Nov 10 2010
5:24 pm
Beth Anne writes:

Interestingly, this morning my co-worker started talking about a Portuguese holiday centered around roasted chestnuts that occurs this week: St. Martin Day.

Jan 3 2011
4:50 pm
binki writes:

Roasting chestnuts. So European. I have never actually put one in my mouth. But I will try them, next time I’m in Europe.

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