Humor by Chason Gordon. See below.
Pistachios are an odd nut, because they’re the only nut that has cleavage. If you look at a pistachio the shell is always slightly spread open, giving you a preview of the sweet jewel inside. Whenever I open a pistachio nut, it feels like I’m pulling open a women’s blouse. Is this why pistachios are so popular? Who knows.
Human beings have eaten pistachios for over 9,000 years (in fact the massive discarded shell pile in Knoxville can be seen from outer space). We first began cultivating them in Syria, but this is merely a guess, as most archaeologists aren’t willing to spend their time looking for old pistachio shells (they’d rather hunt for Jesus’ gold). After Syria pistachios spread to Iran and then found their way to Rome in the first century. The pistachio crop however didn’t reach America until the late nineteenth century, so we were basically 8900 years late to the party. That’s the last time we let that happen (sort of).
Pistachios don’t come straight from the farm to your supermarket. A lot of marketers and pr people get a hold of them first, prepping them for the big show that is the nut aisle. “Can we do something about his color? Would it kill to add some salt? I’m just spitballing here people.” The natural color of a pistachio shell is beige, but companies began dying them red and green to cover up blemishes (a sad time in our history). However now that modern cultivation renders near perfect pistachios, the dyeing is not necessary, though some companies still dye because there are consumers who, if they saw a natural pistachio, might confuse it with a potato (“Excuse me, pistachios are either red or green, I don’t know what that is”).
Like people, certain pistachios are harder to open than others. Some can be split apart with the slightest pressure, while others are a little closed off and require more effort. Let it be said that these pistachios are no tastier than the others, just as shy people who put up walls are no more interesting than extraverted people. In fact I’ll often spend more time trying to open a closed pistachio than trying to get to know a shy person (which means I don’t know myself either). Different strokes.
Unfortunately every bag of pistachios has its holdouts, which are the shells that are so tightly closed only a pair of pliers and a blow torch will pry them open (the legend of the pistachio that can be opened with a kiss is, sadly, a false one). Often I simply discard such pistachios with resentment (“You stay on your side of the shell, I’ll stay on mine”). Sometimes, if I’m feeling generous, I’ll put these pistachios in the “Later” pile, to be dealt with when I have more time, but I never get around to it.
Why do pistachios crack open in the first place? What am I, a scientist? From what I can tell they split open when the nut ripens, thus breaking out of their shell, like a nerdy girl in an 80s movie. It’s odd that we haven’t cultivated pistachios to always open perfectly, but perhaps that would make things too easy, and like the original Matrix the architect designed, society would break down because of it.
There’s a real scientist, by the name of Dr. James Painter, who observed that this extra amount of work causes us to eat less. Because pistachios take time to open, and because we see the discarded shells, our brain thinks we’ve done more eating than we actually have, and tells us we’re satisfied. But don’t let your brain get the better of you! You can always buy shelled pistachios, and then later get a burger. It’s a good thing Dr. Painter warned us about pistachios and their dirty tricks.
The pistachio is truly a complicated nut, and as such it has played a vital role in history. When the U.S. placed sanctions against Iran after the Iranian hostage crisis, the California pistachio industry took off, as there was less competition. This did not please the Iranian pistachio industry, who put out ads in major Iranian newspapers saying, “Thanks a lot, hostage takers.”
Pistachios have been everywhere! It was the sound of boots stepping on discarded pistachios shells that alerted Castro’s guards of an attempted assassination. It was pistachios that were first used to test the Canadian space arm at the International Space Station. It was pistachios and the need to open them which caused human beings to evolve and develop thumbs. It was pistachios that first introduced us to love, ended the Franco-Prussian War, and caused a record company to take a chance on a little known band named The Beatles.
So next time you’re at a bar, and a cute girl grabs your callused thumb, slyly remarking, “Pistachio eater? Me too,” you can look at the camera, smile and say, “Thanks pistachios!”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons