Friday, February 13, 2015

they call me a pecan-nasseur

these days i walk about six blocks to school, up through a neighborhood called tech terrace, and across nineteenth on a kind of wildcat crossing, no light or anything, at a place where it's about four lanes each way. i'm relieved to be away from the light, which forced a kind of regularity on top of extreme danger, but now i just face the extreme danger, and take my chances with the timing. cars on nineteenth are going about forty; they can't see much because it's so wide. but i don't let them hit me.

then, what i've noticed is that there are different kinds of pecan trees all along my route. i know they're different kinds because some are very long, others are small and circular, and still others are slightly larger and oval. whenever i can, i pick up about six or seven of them and jam them in my pockets. many of them appear to have been there all winter. but, though i thought it was open season at first, and kind of went crazy picking up as many as i could, now i realize that after a beautiful weekend, some people will come out and actually harvest their pecans, and maybe they even value them, take them down to the shelling place, or just eat them. there's no way of knowing, in the spring, whether they're getting them out of there because they want them out of the way, or whether somebody is actually going to eat them.

they're actually quite delicious, although it's not so easy to get the meat out; sometimes you have to pick at it, and i do this while i'm walking, so i lose some of the good stuff. i let the husks fall because i figure it's all organic. but it reminds me a little of black walnut husks, all yellow and good for dying or melting down. the curbs are full of old husks and pecan detritus and it has a nice smell; there are at least six or seven trees on my route and maybe another half-dozen just a half block away in any direction. slowly i'm finding them all and evaluating what kind of pecans there are in the neighborhood.

at first when we did research on the names, in the writing lab, i noticed that one group names them after all the native american tribes (osage, cheyenne, kiowa, etc.) while another had a different set of names. i really haven't started learning the names yet. there's one tree that leans over into our own back yard, and i'd like to know what kind of pecans it has, but i just haven't done the research yet. most people will tell you, there are hundreds of kinds. and the lighter ones are the wilder, more common ones, while the commercial ones are a bit darker.

where i come from, pecans are a delicacy, worth four or five bucks a pound or more, so it amazes me to see them sitting around, and i can't resist grabbing the ones i see. at the lab i drink black coffee so i'm kind of on a white pecan / black coffee diet and i'm really grooving on it, because apparently we had plenty of rain and we're enjoying a pretty good crop. nobody yet has objected to my grabbing a few pecans. how could they? there're thousands of them, and they've been sitting there all winter.

my favorite thing to do is hold them and squeeze them in my hand until one pops. they're just hard enough that they resist the bugs until february, but not too hard that they can resist a good squeeze with an old guy's hands. the picking of the meat is only painstaking if it breaks poorly, then i have to actually work to get anything good out of it. usually it comes out whole.

there's a whole art of figuring out what kind of nutcracker works best and getting the right machines. people who grew up around here remember having to do it in front of the television, so that their families felt like they were being productive even when they watched tv. but in fact they were there for the picking all along, and they kind of ensured that nobody starved altogether, in lean times, or when everyone was out of work. that's why i like them. they're kind of an insurance policy, and if a person knew where every tree was, and was capable of walking out there to get them, there would be a kind of security in that, as the hot sun blazes down, and you see these fine looking little nuts down in the weeds, along the curbs, and in people's yards that are occasionally overgrown, already, with ragweed.

so the other day i went to put my sweater on, and as i lifted it upside down over my head, all these pecans fell out and all over the wood floor in the front room. the made a nice sound and rolled all over the place. my wife laughed at me that i'd collected so many, but i showed her the different kinds and how easy it was to sort them and see where they came from. it's like the garden, in the end; though the total amount of food doesn't amount to much in the daily budget, the feeling of being connected to the earth and its harvest is well worth the investment, and makes a person feel like the environment is not so harsh and unforgiving after all.


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