My finger and thumb were casualties of The Great Chestnut Disaster of 2007. I suppose it could have been worse, but it certainly wasn’t pretty.
Those are the prisoners of war. They may very well stay in their little netting bag for the rest of their shelled little lives for all I care.
Those are the faces of happy dogs who ate most of the chestnuts that I could pry open with my injured fingers. You can also tell which dogs go outside to play in the rain and which one is too prissy for such activities.
See, every year I look forward to roasting chestnuts, peeling them open, and eating a warm nutty soft chestnut. One year I read about the Chestnutter, a little device that pokes an “X” into the chestnuts, allowing them to release steam and not explode in your oven (or fireplace, or wherever you roast your chestnuts). I pooh-poohed it because, ha, who needs an actual device to make an “X”? Two moves with a knife and you’re good to go! What a silly waste of money! But, when I make an “X” in my chestnuts, either I have bad chestnuts, or the cut doesn’t go deep enough, or I’m just really bad at the whole chestnut thing because I have the hardest time getting the chestnut out of the shell and that funny paper skin that clings so fervently. I end up pulling it in half and scraping the soft meat off with my teeth. It’s not very fun or festive.
This year, I found bags of chestnuts at Ranch 99 for such a good price, I vowed to do it properly, even without a Chestnutter. I read up on various cooking techniques. I perused the conflicting recommendations on how to cut, how to cook, how to cool. I made my “X” deeper than usual. Then the knife slipped and I freaked out.
I don’t do well with injuries, especially if they involve bleeding. Immediately (after cursing the chestnuts), I wrapped my finger in a paper towel and held it above my head. I willed my finger not to bleed, but then worried the willing would cause my heart rate to go up, which would pump more blood out of the wound. I gave up and sat on the couch to watch my DVR-ed House. I ate a chocolate bon-bon, justified that my pain and suffering deserved a treat. Then I got tired of holding my arm up and decided to maybe bandage up properly. Is it bad that I don’t have a real first aid kit for people, but my dog first aid kit is fully stocked with sterile gauze and bandages? With my finger gauzed and taped, with pressure to staunch bleeding, I resumed my tv viewing. Periodically I would look at my poor finger, trying to determine what to do next. When it started throbbing and looked purple, I determined the next thing to do should probably involve loosening the tape.
After a while, I got bored with the whole injured-person thing (I mean, the dogs certainly weren’t sympathetic). Then I got mad at the stupid chestnuts. But not the knife. You shouldn’t get mad at sharp objects… they’ll haunt your dreams and you’ll fear retaliation. So, I lightly scored a couple more chestnuts to fill the pan and threw them in the already heated oven. After 20 minutes, the dogs started barking at some banging noises, but I figured T had come home and was fiddling in the garage. It then occurred to me that perhaps my lightly scored chestnuts were too lightly scored. Sure enough, the dogs were barking at exploding chestnuts, also an indication that perhaps they were done!
Have you ever tried opening chestnuts with one good hand, a wounded finger and a just-noticed cut thumb? It’s hard. Especially when the chestnut shells are hard and not splitting open and you still have to peel away the annoying paper skin. After a few, I just started sulking and feeding the dogs the chestnuts I could get open. Then I went and ate tapioca. And watched ER.
I’m still not convinced a Chestnutter would have helped. I think my underlying problem is with peeling the dumb things afterwards. I’m so over the chestnuts. I’m ready to move on to a different cold weather snack. Like maybe the peppermint Jo-Jo cheesecake I just read about in the Trader Joe’s flyer.