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.