Tahlequah Daily Press

November 25, 2013

Nuts may be good for you, but are they worth their weight in gold?

Managing Editor

TAHLEQUAH — “Nuts are good for you,” my husband reminded me as he scooped handfuls of walnuts, and then pecans, into plastic bags at Reasor’s last week. On our way to the car, I scanned the receipt, to find out what had cost us an arm and a leg. It was those nuts – fully a quarter of the entire bill, about $25.

The arrival of the nut crop is one good reason for dreading this time of year. I know nuts are all in vogue these days as being among the “good fats,” along with avocados and coconut oil. And the farmers and retailers know it, too. They understand that behind every wife trying to manage a household budget is a husband repeating the mantra of “they’re good for you,” which somehow justifies the higher grocery bill.

If you haven’t shopped for nuts this season and were wondering about the going rate, let me save you the trouble: They range from $5.99 to $7.99 a pound, in their weighty hulls. I’m pretty sure that pecans – the most popular nut in these parts – were at the top of the heap. And speaking of nuts of a sort and “good fats,” by the way, have you priced coconut oil lately? It’s around $8 or $9 for a pint jar containing what looks like vegetable shortening. Seems a steep price to pay for a healthier batch of popcorn.

I hear other excuses for the nefarious nut purchases. An especially popular one has to do with my candy-making proclivities this time of year. I make about 15 types, and most of them have nuts in them. The most popular seem to be my English toffee and my Southern pralines; the former features almonds, and the latter, pecans.

But here’s the rub: When it comes times to actually shell the nuts for the candy-making, I’m told this is “too much trouble – why don’t you just buy ones that are already shelled?” When I remind the “excuse-maker” the candy was part of the rationale for buying a 55-gallon drum’s worth of various nuts, the response –usually uttered in a defiant tone typical of those of Italian ancestry – is that it will take too long to shell that many nuts, and the preferred time to complete the candy-making is NOW. (Incidentally, I could not think of a noun that aptly described one who incessantly makes excuses, and when I tried to Google for suggestions, the third entry from the top was “a man.”)

What’s happening is not difficult to discern. The nut-buyer wants all the jacketed treats for himself, to be leisurely cracked and savored one at a time, thus requiring the purchase of extra nuts for the candy. And have you priced packaged, shelled and cleaned nuts lately? Don’t look at the shelf tag for a can of cashews unless you can get your handbag open quickly enough to throw up into it. Macademias? We won’t even go there.

I would consider foregoing the foray into confection concoction this year, except my recent questioning of Sarah Palin’s intellectual prowess cost me enough Facebook friends to engender a psychological complex. I dare not risk losing real-time, geographically proximate friends by robbing them of the expected seasonal goodies. Why, one could lose valued co-workers, dentists, hair stylists, family doctors, mentors, and even workout partners for such an outrage.

Yet since the economy around here hasn’t really improved since George W. Bush opened two battle fronts and sent the price of Rice A Roni spiraling from 75 cents to $1.29 a box, it’s incumbent upon me to save money somewhere. A random look at the Reasor’s register tape for the past six months, fresh from the “I-save-everything” bin, reveals where I can cut some corners.

The gourmet cheeses, hard salami, cured Italian meats, pickled vegetables, canned peppers, and “blond” Oreo cookies (not the double-stuffed, just the regular kind) have got to go. At least for the time being.

This will require vigilance on my part. It means that instead of intently watching the display monitor as the cashier rings up my purchases to make sure I’m not overcharged, I will have to keep an eye on what’s going by on the conveyor belt. I don’t know about the rest of you wives, but that’s where I “get took.”

Many women praise my husband because he always helps with the shopping, and he gallantly pushes the cart while I study the shelves and check off the grocery list. These admirers don’t realize he does this mainly so he can sneak expensive, off-list treats into the cart – things that are rarely on sale and for which we never have coupons.

I seldom notice these indiscretions until they’re being rung up, and I can’t yell, “Hey, I didn’t authorize that!” without embarrassing my husband. That action would buy me an animated spate of the yelling and gesticulating for which Italians are also famous.

I have not informed my husband of my intentions, and I would appreciate it if those who know him would not beat feet to be the bearer of bad tidings.

Such revelations require a great deal of planning and must be imparted with finesse. Besides, if you can’t keep your trap shut, you’d better hope you weren’t on the list of candy recipients. The consequences will be swift, and your nut allotment will go to someone else.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.