Monday, January 23, 2012


The cold, crispy snows of January in Norway function as a mirror. The antiseptic sheen blankets stimulus from the outside environment, turning the mind inward, grasping for associations, to ancient memories.

So was it just now, when I poked through a shopping cart of remainders from Christmas, in search of goodies for half price. My eyes settled on a small plastic bucket of large, candied cockroach carapaces (or so it seemed.) No, those are... oh yeah, those things that were also hallowed and known in the US during Christmas... Figs--no, that's not what they were... Dates! Dates, that's what they're called.

That's right, hadn't thought of them in a while. I never liked them much, cloyingly sweet things with a crispy, exoskeleton texture on the outside. They were things of tradition, from an era before the world was not awash in processed sweets. My immediate family did not have them, but I associate them with my grandparents, who had an abundance of such traditional things at Christmas.

There, also to be studied and wondered over, examined in wooden bowls, were unusual nuts, never seen before. I didn't particularly like these either, again perhaps due to their skeletal or mummified looks. One strange one recalled a dried peach pit, itself full of pits that looked deep enough to prevent there being much of a nut inside. There was the visceral wall nut, a hard brain, whose flavor was underwhelming after the effort required to crack it, using the finger-pinching, toothy nut-cracking pliers, quick to slide off the smooth, hard shells, plowing into, pinching and gauging finger flesh.

The most grotesque of all these nuts was the swarthy, armored fossil of hardness, the nigger toe (or so my grandpa called it.) Later I learned its more appetizing name, the Brazil nut. I don't go out of my way to find these.

So, did I buy any dates from the half-priced cart? No, that's OK--just seeing them was food for thought. I'll just buy some peanuts and chocolate.

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