Thursday, October 27, 2016
Lately I have been buying small bags of pine nuts, precious pine nuts, over at my local co-op. Global warming, several years ago, began wreaking havoc on the pine trees whose nuts are large enough to harvest. If I recall correctly the Pinon Pine in particular was hit hard by rising temperatures. And so, accordingly, pine nut prices soared. I stopped buying pine nuts. I'm thrifty.
But inch by inch their $30 a pound price tag became more normal to me. And inch by inch those little nuts looked more appealing to me. Finally I bought some. "Hello." My mouth said. "These are my favorite nuts." And then my mouth added "EVER!"
Here are two stories from our vast array of cultural fictions that have made an enormous impression upon me over the years. They run through my mind. They are a portion of my personal mythology. In one young Charlie is a lover of chocolate. But his family is so desperately poor that chocolate is far too grand a luxury for them. Nevertheless, for this incredibly sweet and decent kid, on his birthday, they manage to get him a single bar of Wonka Chocolate. Oh how he treasures it, nibbling it and making it last as long as possible. To have a chocolate bar! To get to taste chocolate, even if only a tiny bit, every day for a month!
The other story has our hero invading the home of an impossibly rich person in the grim future it sometimes seems we are heading to. He opens the refrigerator. There is a small jar of strawberry preserves. He takes a spoonful of these strawberry preserves made with honest to god strawberries. Has he ever had strawberries before? Is it the memory of a vast, unbelievable childhood luxury? One little spoonful. Could anything ever be more exquisite or precious?
And so I buy pine nuts, my favorite of all nuts. Thirty dollars a pound, ten cents for each tiny nut. Scallops go for $25 a pound, as does good quality tuna, who would ever have guessed that one? A third of my shopping list goes to wild luxuries, figs, maple syrup, and ever they inch away from my means. Ever I chase them down.
Perhaps some of them will slip away forever. One day maybe I will never be able to afford a cashew or a piece of wild smoked salmon. And alas for our natures, my nature, that the second before they disappear forever, they are at their best, the elephant, the polar bear, pine nuts, life itself, the most glorious thing in all the universe, and then gone.