I'm nuts about nuts.
That line has been used probably a billion times, I know, but I had to say it. However, I won't use any more clichés. I will not write: Nuts don't get any better than this; these nuts take it to the next level; or those nuts are amazing. What does "amazing" tell you about nuts, anyway? It does not tell me how nuts are flavorful, healthful, crunchy, salty, earthy, distinctively delicious and simply scrumptious little nuggets of goodness.
Yes, I love munching on tasty nuts – I mean, peanuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios. Those are my favorites. I can't handle some nuts; you know, some are bland or bitter or just not tasty, but I think most nuts are delectable.
Nuts are satisfying snacks all by themselves, but nuts also make for wonderful candy-bar ingredients or ice-cream toppings or homemade-cookie crunchies. And pan-toasted nuts are delicious, savory, crackly, exciting little additions to any dinner salad.
My favorite nut-enhanced candy bar, incidentally, is the PayDay peanut caramel bar. I've been enjoying PayDays for as long as my nutty brain can remember. When I was growing up in Lebanon, Ill., PayDays were made by the Hollywood Candy Company, about 50 miles away in Centralia. During the year in which I joined the Marine Corps, 1967, the family of PayDay's creator – Frank Martoccio invented the PayDay in 1932 – sold the company. It changed hands a couple of times, and PayDay is now made in Minneapolis, I think, by The Hershey Company.
I still must have my PayDays, no matter what, but I won't turn down a full-of-nuts Baby Ruth or a Snickers. I could eat a Stuckey's Pecan Log, too, but there's none of those famous Stuckey's roadside restaurant-shops in Illinois. Stand by, Stuckey's; I'll be making a trip Down South next year. Mmm ... pecan logs.
I eat a lot of Nature Valley granola-type bars with nuts in them. I get the ones that are mostly oats and nuts. Right now, I'm working on a box of crunchy Nature Valley pecan crunch bars. I like the roasted almond crunch bars, too. They are delicious and satisfying. Another good one is the sweet and salty cashew. I take a Nature Valley with me when I walk, hike and jog; that's why I buy them, but I end up sneaking them at all times of the day and night. Last night, before bed, I scarfed down a pecan crunch with a glass of milk. I'm so health smart. Pfft.
How about the nuts in a box of Cracker Jack caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts? Cracker Jack has been around for more than 105 years. The Cracker Jack boxes in my cupboard, of course, have not been around that long. They'd be mighty stale if they were, but I might still eat them anyway. Similar to Cracker Jack are toffee-coated Fiddle Faddle and Crunch 'n Munch. The latter is mouthwateringly tasty. I can munch a bunch of Crunch 'n Munch. Poppycock is another similar product, and it's original version is popcorn, almonds and pecans covered in a candy glaze. Yum!
Certain gourmet shops offer cheeky popcorn and pricey nuts. That brings to mind luscious chocolate-covered cashews, but I don't want to spend $10 to $15 for a fancy little container of chocolaty nuts at a gourmet store. Hey, we don't need no high-falutin shop for to buy our nuts; we can just head to the Dollar General store. I stopped in today and bought a 9-ounce can of chocolate-covered cashews for a mere $2.35. Think they aren't delicious? Oh, I'm easy to please.
However, nuts all by themselves – not covered in something, not mingled with other things – taste heavenly and are so gratifying. They're the best, simply on their own. Don't forget the salt, though. Buy the salted ones. I won't listen to any foolish talk about buying unsalted nuts. I refuse to listen to any gobbledygook about the healthfulness of eliminating salt. My nuts shall be salty.
Roasting and salting enhances the flavors of nuts, bringing out the robust delectability of almonds, the exotic succulence of cashews, the savory pleasantness of pecans, the ambrosial delightfulness of pistachios and the American boldness of the little peanut. Plus, my nutty friends, that saltiness on your tongue, on your palate, is the exclamation mark punctuating the wonderful nutty flavor that is delighting your taste buds as you munch on a mouthful of your favorite salted nuts.
Some of my friends, especially from the Deep South it seems, enjoy pouring a small packet of salted peanuts into a bottle of cola and consuming them together. They crunch on the peanuts and slurp down the cola, all at the same time, with one hand free to do whatever else they're doing. I believe that salt is an important part of the concoction, so the downing process calls for salted nuts, I'm almost sure. It all sounds pretty good. I've tried all kinds of edible formulas all over the world, yet I've never tried that one. I must put that on my to-do list.
Having served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, I'm wondering why we never got nuts in our combat rations. We had no nuts in C-Rations, none in our Long-Range Rations and surprisingly none in our MREs – that stands for Meals, Ready to Eat – and you'd think that modern MREs would offer nuts. Maybe nuts could become rancid after awhile, no matter what kind of packaging they're in. That must be it, but nuts would be wonderful to crunch on out there in some jungle or desert or mountain forest.
Nuts are more than fantastic food, by the way. They make good gifts, too. Anne's best friend, Carolyn, always gives me a festively wrapped can of nuts as a Christmas gift. Last Christmas, she gave me a can of wasabi-soy nuts. They were sensational, spectacular, stupendous – way, way beyond delicious! My taste buds were calling cadence to the "The Marines' Hymn," and my stomach was processing the Japanese-inspired nuts with great joy. Yes, the highlight of the holidays each year could be the opening of my Christmas present from Carolyn, and she knows that whatever nutty gift she gives me, I would never regift it. Nope. I'll be noshing on your nuts, baby!
I can get away with eating nuts as snacks anytime, because I've spent years selling Anne on the nutritional value of nuts. They're full of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and those healthful fats. It's not like I'm eating potato chips, which I do eat. I adore potato chips. But I can come across as a healthy dude when I snack on nuts.
As much as I lust for potato chips, I equally crave cashew nuts. Back when I was in the Marine Corps, a fellow Marine advised me to take it easy on the cashews, because they were chock full of calories. According to the USDA Nutrient Laboratory Database, an ounce of cashews has 157 calories, while an ounce of almonds is 163 calories, and an equal portion of pistachios has 158. Heck, an ounce of Brazil nuts has 190 calories, and just an ounce of macadamia nuts packs 200 calories. Don't worry about it. Go nuts.
I know almonds are good for us, because I took part in an almond study in the late 1990s conducted by Loma Linda University, home to Loma Linda University Medical Center and Loma Linda University School of Medicine. I got to enjoy plenty of delicious almonds everyday for six months. I ate almonds on my salads, tossed them into a hot skillet with my wild trout, baked yummy almond cookies, and I ate almonds right out of the bag. The university bestowed upon me many bags. My resupplies consisted of lots of Ziploc bags of almonds, all packed inside a big, brown, paper bag. I was a happy guinea pig.
So, I graze on nuts all the time, and I can do so with no guilt and with the confidence that they are providing me with excellent nutrition while pleasing me with wonderful flavors, textures and snacktime gratification. Yep, I'm nuts about nuts. (Arrrgh, I said it again.)