October 19, 2009

Chestnuts exploding over an open fire / veganmofo 2009

My mother was a pretty straightforward cook, and our dinners were usually meat, potato, salad when my father was home, and chicken, potato, salad when he wasn't. There was an occasional foray into frozen green beans or canned peas, but she didn't experiment much. For every holiday, we knew the menu. I can remember the few times she experimented with new recipes; for example, there was the flounder baked in sour cream, the schnecken, and the roasted chestnuts...

I was about 14 the first time my mother made roasted chestnuts. She made them in a covered pan on the stove. We were pretty excited as this was something we'd never had before. There was a nice toasty smell, and then suddenly there was the sound of gunfire, or firecrackers. The lid flew off the pot, and sharp, hot objects began catapulting around the room. We started shrieking and ducking for cover under the kitchen table. We soon realized the chestnuts were exploding, and stopped yelling, but all hell was breaking loose, and we were powerless to leave our shelter. The shrieks turned to gales of laughter as we waited for the disaster to end. All of the chestnuts had exploded into a zillion pieces and the kitchen was covered with debris. We were practically paralyzed with hysterical laughter as we tried to undo the damage. My mother checked the recipe and found she'd skipped the part about cutting an x into each chestnut to allow the steam to escape. Oh well.

Before we moved here and rented the house we're living in, I don't think I'd ever seen a chestnut tree. Here, I noticed trees with odd, prickly green fruit and wondered what they were — some kind of nut tree? All of a sudden, the tree at our house dropped its fruits, and chestnuts were lying all over the sidewalk and street. The minute I saw this nutty display, I ran for bowls and started collecting. But wait a minute ... are these really chestnuts? After a bit of Internet research I've learned that what we have covering the street and sidewalk are HORSE CHESTNUTS, and they are POISONOUS. Figures. The question here is why do people plant poisonous horse chestnut trees when they can have sweet, edible chestnuts instead? Why, why, why?

Here's what a sweet chestnut pod looks like.

This is a horse chestnut pod.
Sweet chestnut pods are covered in long spines that go every which way. The spines are so thick the pod skin can't be seen. Horse chestnut pods have much fewer, shorter spines. I collected the sweet chestnut pod on a walk. If I could just remember where...

Horse chestnuts


Today is my birthday and we plan to try out a new (to us) restaurant tonight. The restaurant I really want to go to is closed on Mondays. Sometimes we get caught in a restaurant rut and go back to the same places again and again, so I'm willing myself to try someplace different tonight. With so many options available to us, it's the fun and adventurous thing to do. Right?


  1. Happy Birthday!!!!! I didn't realize you were married so close to your birthday! I hope you had a great time, whatever restaurant you visited.

    My aunt and uncle did the same thing with chestnuts when my parents were visiting too. Sure enough... it was the X..... and my uncle was a chef!

    Happy birthday!

  2. Happy Birthday Andrea. I'm glad you did your research on those chestnuts before tasting them.

  3. Happy birthday! Hope it was a great one!

  4. Claire, Dave, Sherrie,
    Thanks! I had a nice birthday and no poisonous foods were consumed.

  5. Happy Birthday! Hope you have a great dinner! It's fun to try new places!

  6. Happy Birthday, Andrea! When I was a kid, we used to call the horse chestnuts, "buckeyes," presumably because that's what they looked like.

    I wanted to let you know that Bryanna Clark Grogan recently posted a vegan mascarpone recipe on the vegan feast open cooking forum (see the thread titled "vegan cream cheese - soy free?" Anyway, it made me think of the Anna Thomas video about the squash soup that you mentioned. I think I just might try the two together! Though adding the "mascarpone" would certainly up the calorie intake!

  7. Chow,
    Thanks! The dinner was good but I think I ate too much.

    Thanks for the B-day greeting and the tip. I'll go look for that recipe. (I'm probably too lazy to make it but ya never know.) We made another LS soup and sprinkled a little grated Daiya cheese on top, which was very good. But, really, the soups stand alone.

  8. Happy Birthday! I hope you had a wonderful birthday and a great birthday dinner :-)

    My mother--who lives in NY--has a chestnut tree, and I am assuming they must be REAL chestnuts as she has been eating them for the past few years, lol! She once sent me a HUGE package full of them, and I had no idea what to do with them...I am not a huge fan of nuts, so I have them in a bowl as decoration, lol! I will have to do some internet research on the horse chestnut, though, as now you have me worried she is harvesting poisonous nuts!


  9. I laughed out loud at that chestnut story! Sounds like something that would happen in my kitchen. ;)

    Hope you had a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY and a great dinner! :)

  10. Waaah, Happy belated Birthday, Andrea!!!!
    This MOFo-ing keeps me on my toes and I can't seem to catch up as regularly as I used to with your great posts.
    So I hope you were pampered and enjoyed your special day!

    I love chestnuts, - exploding or not ;)
    Hugs, KiKi

  11. Ricki,
    It's one of those fond memories that always makes me smile.

    Thank you! I know what you mean about mofo. I can't seem to catch up with anything!


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