When told the Americans were hopelessly surrounded at Bastogne, Belgium, and ordered to surrender on Dec. 22, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division’s acting commanding general, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe responded iconically to the German commander by saying, “Nuts!”
I’ve always suspected McAuliffe actually said something bad about the Nazi commander’s mama, but the political-correctness police cleaned up his real response for the history books. On the other hand, he may have been expressing a desire for the key ingredient to trail mix — nuts.
No paratrooper worth his weight in C rations or Meals Ready to Eat is ever caught without a pack of beef jerky, a bottle of Tabasco sauce or a bag of trail mix — that protein-filled concoction of Chex cereal, pretzels, raisins, M&Ms and nuts. Oh yeah, lots of nuts — pecans, cashews, almonds and peanuts, which are not really nuts at all but legumes.
I really don’t care if they’re nuts or beans — I love Georgia peanuts. You can dry, salt, roast and boil them, with each method producing a different, delightful flavor. Try boiling a Macadamia nut and see if you like the taste — if you can bite through the shell.
As a kid, I used to take a fistful of salted peanuts and slip them down the neck of a 16-ounce RC Cola. The mixture of salty peanut and sweet, cola flavors were made for each other. Today, I like to sit on my back porch while eating boiled peanuts, still washing them down with RC Cola.
I do the same thing with fresh pecans, cracking two nuts in the palm of my hand and then picking out the delicious pulp.
It’s probably a good thing that nuts are healthy snacks, as I try to eat some every day. According to MayoClinic.com, eating nuts is part of a healthy diet and can help lower your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. The website says nuts are loaded with protein, unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and Vitamin E, which can help stop the development of plaque in your arteries.
The Peach State is the nation’s top producer of peanuts and pecans, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. I’m supporting my state every time I eat a few ounces of nuts. In fact, I keep a large jar of mixed nuts next to my “man chair.” This is not a commercial mixture but one I put together.
I start with a large jar of lightly salted peanuts, which I dump into one of my wife’s Tupperware containers. Then, I add a can of smoked almonds, a can of cashews and the equivalent of a can of fresh-cracked pecans.
Obviously, I can’t get all these nuts back in the same jar, but my wife usually gets her Tupperware container back in a few days.
Each afternoon, as I watch the evening news and wait for supper, I’ll eat several fistfuls of these mixed nuts. It stops my hunger pangs and prevents me from eating too much at supper, and it’s a healthy habit.
As I’ve said before, I don’t get excited about desserts, but if you’re going to offer me a brownie, it must have peanuts or walnuts. Although fruitcake made the nearby town of Claxton famous, I’ve never been a big fan. I will, however, pick out the nuts in a slice of fruitcake. A slice or two of German chocolate cake will get my attention too, if only because of the coconut-and-pecan topping.
Crushed peanuts or walnuts make a great coating on baked or broiled fish like mahimahi, trout or red snapper. Lots of Chinese dishes include peanuts, as do some salads, which also feature pine nuts.
Nuts add crunch and flavor to lots of dishes, but I’m content to eat them au naturale.
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