brass crocodile

For the love of nuts

Nutcrackers have been an essential part of human civilisation since we first learnt to crack a nut between two rocks. Since then, there have been some changes although the basic design was always the same, essentially a pair of pliers which was, of course just a more technical version of the original two rocks.

That was until the 17th Century when the wooden screw nutcracker was created, designed to apply pressure from one point only. Iron lever nutcrackers appeared in the 13th Century and were decorated with designs often featuring animals, the poor nut would be placed in the mouth of the animal and then the lever would ‘bite’ down on the nut to crack it.

The first soldier nutcrackers appeared in Sonneberg and Ezerberge regions of eastern Germany in the early 19th century, which brings me to The Nutcracker Suite, the classic tale by ETA Hoffman which was adapted by Alexandre Dumas Père and set to music by Tchaikovsky to create the iconic Christmas ballet of the same name. The Christmas ballet was first performed outside Russia in England in 1934. Its first United States performance was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet. The story centres on a young girl’s Christmas Eve and her awakening to the wider world and romantic love.

This week’s challenge is to think about the various types of nuts (they don’t have to be edible) and which you prefer (or not) and why. And to accompany your creativity I’ve thrown in a video of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy to entertain you while you work.

Me, I love nuts, all nuts from the crunchy brazils that are so hard to get out of their shells, to the softer cashews which are fantastic for throwing in curries as well as munching raw. But my favourites are always salted and oiled!

Why not tell us what you’ll be looking forward to in the nut department over Christmas or if like me, you have them in the house all year round.

Finally, here’s my effort:

I could smell their salty oiliness even before I opened the sitting room door. Peanuts were humped in their Christmas bowls and covered with lids to stop us from dipping dirty fingers before Christmas had truly begun. An ancient nutcracker sat atop the piles of walnuts, brazils and hazelnuts waiting for dad to crack the first one, effectively cutting the ribbon on that year’s season of joy and goodwill. Along with tangerines, liquorice allsorts and jelly babies, the nuts were the backdrop to my childhood Christmas.

There was always a handful along with the obligatory orange in the foot of dad’s oldest socks on Christmas morning, together with tiny crayons, notebooks, spinning tops, miniature games and chocolate we never ate at any other time of the year. I recall them all now and my mouth waters, the Crunchie, Turkish delight, Toblerone and Fry’s Chocolate Cream; a rich gooey feast all eaten by the time the day had ended.

You can also find out more about the history of Nutcrackers on the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum website.


  1. Crackers About Nuts

    A festive smorgasbord of nuts for some is Yule tradition
    But I’ll hold my hands up right away to make this brief admission
    That I only ever love nuts as and when they’re mixed with food
    If they form part of something sweet then I’ll be in the mood
    So almond extract floats my boat when in a Bakewell tart
    I don’t mind walnut whips as they’ve got chocolate at their heart
    They’re only just acceptable when in a coffee cake
    Luckily for me my wife’s a girl who loves to bake
    Brazil nuts take the prize for size, their flavour’s highly feted
    Though (very like their football team) I think they’re overrated.
    I never pine for pecans as I find they’re only tasty
    When sprinkled on the surface of a warmed up Danish Pastry.
    My first love’s name was Hazel – we met at junior school
    And being truly ‘Hazel nuts’ meant I was Cupid’s fool
    I’m always shy of coconuts; cashews are best in curry
    When someone proffers chestnuts I am never in a hurry
    There’s arty Macadamias, for those who go to uni
    Not everybody’s cup of tea – like Marmite or halloumi
    Now good nuts are expensive – and for the best array
    You can’t pay peanuts if you want to serve a quality entrée
    So you won’t find me grazing from some fancy nut-filled platters
    I’d sooner get pist-achio’d than use a pair of crackers!

    1. I love the oblique reference to the World Cup Iain as well as your ability to mention pretty much every edible nut available in the UK, and I guess the last line might be the one that counts most at Christmas for you?

  2. Thank you Linda – I’m actually teetotal, but I couldn’t resist the pun….🙂

    1. I assumed you would be drunk on fun Iain …. 🙂 does that get me out of trouble?

  3. Hangs head in shame because I haven’t got to this one yet. Well, not because I haven’t got to it, but because I completely forgot about it.

    Iain I love that round-up and yep a brilliant last line.


    The forest was sodden now. The last of the frost had melted into her sleeping bag before the rains arrived. The pools were filling, and encroaching on her bivvie. It had worked quite well during the ice storm, been oddly insulating, and it wasn’t as if her body could give off much heat to melt it from the inside.

    Everyone told her that it is warmer in the city, overflow heat from shops and offices…but a lot of the offices were still closed, and the shops that were empty had now been boarded up to keep people like her out of them. And she knew the streets might be warmer, but they were also more dangerous. People who have nothing, also have nothing to lose, so are willing to risk everything for a little bit more than nothing.

    She was tired of being that ‘little bit more than nothing’ , so she’d drifted into the woods.

    Once you got used to the noises of the animals it stopped being scary. Once the animals got used to the noise of you, they got curious and came visiting. They were better visitors than the desperate city street folk. Had more empathy. They taught her patience. They taught her what was good to eat.

    And she repaid them. When she found a dry-ish spot, she’d budge up into the back of it, and let fox shelter at her doorway. The stray feathers from the hole in her bag, she left for squirrel to line her dray.

    When she ventured into the city, to beg a hot shower or a change of clothes, or a day’s work, or when she’d found a few 20p coins in the gutter to tumble her bag back into fluffy warmth, people would offer to buy her a cup of coffee. They looked askance when she said, quite politely, “thank you, but could I have half a kilo of nuts instead?”

    Many of them decided she must be un-hinged, but the gentle ones simply said, “Of course”. The curious ones – she liked the curious ones best – asked her why…and she could tell her story. Telling it made it real, kept her real, reminded her that she was still a person, a human being, even though she wanted the nuts to take back to the woods, to feed the birds and the squirrels and the badgers.

    A hot coffee was well-meant charity, but a bagful of nuts, that was just possibly a conversation starter, and afterwards it was protein to be shared with her friends.

    1. Very thought provoking Lesley and very apt given you’re doing 12 wild days of Christmas too. I often stop and ask our street dwellers if they’d like me to get them a coffee, occasionally they ask for tea but I’ve never been asked for nuts, yet!

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