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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Walnut Season

Still Life, WalnutsWalnut trees are all over the Czech Republic. In Cesky Krumlov outside the castle gardens, I was walking down a narrow street between rows of squat houses when nut pods dropped beside me. They were dropping so often that it felt like September in Apple Canyon with its “acorn rains.” I picked up a handful of those castle walnuts and ate them later while riding on the bus back to Prague.

Well, this week the corner street vendors have boxes and boxes of freshly gathered walnuts for sale. A kilo (2.2 pounds) cost about $2.50. Fresh walnuts are easy to open, with no need of nutcracker. A butter knife wedged into the seam, much like shuckers open oysters, separate the nut. Raw walnut meat is tender, more nutty in flavor than the dried variety found in packaged “brands.” Along with the nuttiness is a sweetness in the meat. Not sugary sweet, but rich-sweet.

I have a “cold room” I leave unheated because, well, I don’t use the room otherwise than as an entranceway … sort of a mudroom or cold pantry, where the half-fridge stays. This room is good for storing walnuts, which I plan to stock up on (walnuts are an excellent source of complex proteins, are lower in fat than other nuts, and loaded with antioxidents), and for storing red wine (kept at about 55 degrees, such as one finds in French subterranean wine cellars).

Finally a sunny day sprung up between rainy-mild weekdays of late. I had to get out and breath this warmth, so I took the bus & tram to Hradcany Castle and walked through the gardens still open to the public. There are plenty of tourists yet coming through Prague. The phrase for the day is “hot spiced wine”: this is a potent beverage available at most caf├ęs when the temps drop. If you’re lucky, or patient, you will find (look for) a bar that carries some home-made hooch.

I use this home-made term loosely, because this isn’t some Dago Red left to ferment in the cellar. In fact it’s special, unpasteurized “new wine” that is both rich-bodied and high in alcohol. You’ll know you’re getting this when the barrista pours a glass from a spigot plugged into a glass globe vessel, about the size of a basketball. Some bars have whole “trees” of these vessels, lined up on a back wall like the potions in an apothecary’s shop. So I walked around Malostrana with a cup of hot wine (juniper berries, allspice, and whole cloves added), looking into shop windows. I found an interesting puppet-makers shop, which had some amazing carved puppets.

Court Fool Puppet

1 Comment »

  mlbeyer wrote @ November 12th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Sounds very tasty. Hey, I have good news: your scarab will be with you in another week or so. Hope you like it!

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