Thursday, December 4, 2008


We had a full house for Thanksgiving this year, and packing five extra people into a house with only one extra bedroom was quite a challenge. We enjoyed all of the company, don't get me wrong, but coming home from work in the wee hours of the morning and stepping over rows of bodies lying everywhere is slightly eerie, and reminiscent of Heaven's Gate, or Guyana. Thank goodness it was the turkey that did them in and not the kool-aid.

There were many memories made of Monopoly victories, cake decorating, searching for DDR, debating carbon credits, and even shoe throwing (not by the kids, either), but perhaps my favorite moment of the weekend was a story told by my father-in-law that gave me some real insight into the mind of a genius. It was a story about walnuts.

It seems that somewhere upon his hundred acres, he chanced upon a cache of black walnuts. Being the resourceful man that he is, he loaded them up in his tractor and took them back to his shop to enjoy at his leisure. The trouble with walnuts is that in order to eat them, one first has to remove the nut from it's shell, and this is not the easiest of tasks. Looking around his shop, he quickly spotted a hammer and went to work. Although the hammer made easy work of the hard shell, it also took it's toll on the poor walnut inside, shattering it into very small pieces that had to be delicately removed from the shell fragments in order to eat and enjoy. "Too much work for too little reward," thought the father-in-law. And so he set about finding a better way to crack a nut.

A Google search revealed that there was indeed a special nutcracker made just for the hard shell of the black walnut, but it was expensive. Other methods included drilling holes in a board just slightly smaller than the shell, and then hammering the walnuts through with a wooden mallet. He finally settled on using a vise. After some experimentation, he had discovered the absolute best way to crack a black walnut, and I'm here to share his secret with you. The trick is to set it in the vise lengthwise at first, and twist just hard enough to crack the shell a little bit. Then, turn the shell so that the top and bottom are held in the vise, and apply pressure until the shell gives way, leaving the whole sweet delicious nutmeat intact and ready to enjoy.

A lesser man would have been content with the hammer, or even given up altogether. But not my father-in-law. It is the sign of true genius to find a better way, to think outside the box, to experiment in order to get it right. And how noble of him to share his revelation with others? So although I had plenty to be thankful for this year, this Thanksgiving will live on in my memory as the year I learned the absolute best way to crack a black walnut, and, for that, I am truly thankful. God bless you, sir, and your unselfish wisdom.

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