“Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” – Gandhi
In my grade-school years, I remember recess time more than anything else. Sure I have some memories of classrooms, lessons, and teachers, but let’s be honest, the playground was were it was at. It happened that the school I attended for grades 1-8 had a huge chestnut tree on the playground. This tree was often the focus of the students for a number of reasons.
In the fall, the tree would drop it’s summer growth of leaves onto the ground in about 1/2 a day. This left students about two feet of orange, red, and yellow to swim through at recess. One had to be careful though because it was a chestnut tree.
The chestnut comes in a bristling case of spikes which, when thrown by school children, can draw blood. This leads me to some of my favorite memories. The more pedestrian recollections are of students with cardboard pencil boxes and bags collecting the chestnuts after first peeling off the formidable barbed exterior with their feet. Collections of chestnuts could be found everywhere in the school.
My favorite memories are the short chestnut fights. Although I attended grade-school in an era when students could bring squirt guns to class without being accused of being a 7-year-old member of al-qai’da or a serial killer, teachers still frowned upon students impaling each other with flying chestnuts. As a result, the fights were short or just about the right length (depending on your role in the fight – Teacher or student). As students, we never understood the teacher’s aversion to such violent activity. Apart from the bloodshed, personal harm, and hard feelings, it was exactly like a snowball fight. Wait…let me correct myself. It was exactly like a snowball fight!!! Little did I know that a few decades later, I’d be revisiting the chestnut while I looked at snow out my back window.
A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio when I heard, for the 1,467th time, “The Christmas Song”. This song, of course, is one of the most obnoxious Christmas tunes because it tries to be everything to everyone and, in my opinion, simply fails to capture that “Christmas Spirit” (ironic, I know). Apparently the 1,467th listening of this song can inspire the listener to actually think about the song.
“Chestnuts roasting over an open fire…” bla bla bla
This line of the song assumes that people ACTUALY roast chestnuts over a fire at Christmas and, one would again assume, eat them. This struck me as odd since my only experience with chestnuts involved whistling missile-like sounds mixed with the cries of children wanting to protect what was left of their faces. So, I started looking for answers, made a purchase, and then embarked on an adventure when I ate my first brain….uh….chestnut. I thought I had purchased chestnuts but after opening them up, I felt I had been duped. Honestly, they look like squirrel brains or some sort of testicle. Not one to give up, I decided that they could make easy camp food (like popcorn) and chose to roast them in a dutch oven. Here’s my recipe:
Dutch Oven Roasted Chestnuts
- 1 lb of chestnuts
- 2 tbs of canola oil
Score the outside of the chestnut with a knife so they have an easy place to pop open. Roast them in a preheated and oiled dutch oven at 425 degrees (F) for about 25 min. You’ll need to shake the dutch oven occasionally to keep them from burning.
When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the brown hard outer layer. If you wait until they are cold, you won’t be able to peel this off.
After sampling theses chestnuts, half of the family thought they tasted like turkey. The other half of us thought they’d taste better if, instead of being made of chestnut, they were made of chocolate.
This experience has lead me to assume a few things about the first humans who ate the chestnut:
- The chestnut is ensconced in spikes
- Spikes are usually associated with weapons
- People who put weapons into their mouths are suicidal
- Therefore, the first person to eat a chestnut was trying to kill himself and instead discovered a Christmas treat.