Pistachios are one thing all my kids and I like and have liked from an early age. For me it began at about age six when I could go up the hill to Fordy White’s, the drugstore. He had a gumball-type machine where I could put in a nickel and get a handful of pistachios. From then on, I was hooked on this, for many years, exotic treat. I have always preferred pistachios in the shell. There is something satisfying about the process of cracking the nut open and popping just one at a time into my mouth. I am also a purist in that I don’t like any flavored ones such as spicy ones.
I suppose my kids saw me eating them and as soon as they were old enough, I shared them. Every once in a while, out on an errand, one child and I would get a small bag to eat before we got home, but then there was the tell-tale red dye on the fingers, and we were caught. About thirty-five years ago, I was sitting at a lunch counter and got into a conversation with the woman beside me. Strangely, she was an importer of pistachios from Iran, one of the few places they were grown back then. She said the red dye was used to hide imperfections. It was at about this time that California started growing pistachios, and it is now the second largest grower in the world, with pistachios becoming more available and more affordable, and thus less exotic. They must have worked on quality control because you never see red pistachios anymore, and you almost never come on ones you can’t open. (My son once said, “You always seem to buy pistachios right after I cut my fingernails!”) I have learned to use a half-shell to open a reluctant one, but some are just impossible. Most days I measure out three tablespoonsful of pistachios for my morning snack. I make sure to scan the last few to make sure the very last one isn’t one that can’t be opened. Somehow it’s a letdown to be expecting just one more and then…not.
In our family, receiving a bag of pistachios in your Christmas stocking is a strict requirement. And speaking of Christmas and pistachios, one of my father-in-law’s rich clients would send him a 5-pound bag each year. The bag , for some reason, was kept in a non-working fireplace in the green room, and when we would visit during the holiday, my boys, at least, would wander in and help themselves to a few.
I also love pistachio ice cream, pistachios in cookies, candy, and muffins. For a while Jell-O made an instant pistachio pudding which I put in a graham cracker crust. I even like the color pistachio green. What was most amazing for this junk-food junkie was finding out, in the last two years, that pistachios are healthy and maybe even beneficial. For once, some food I love is good for me.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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