Living with nut allergies often means missing out on some amazing food, and the holidays are no exception.
While the nut allergy I have isn't so severe it's life threatening, the discomfort of having your mouth and gums break out in festering sores upon eating any almond, cashew, chestnut, peanut, pistachio, macadamia or walnut in any form just isn't worth it.
Unless, that is, you discover an amazing roasted nut recipe, try it out successfully, and dole it out in great abundance year after year at parties and office gift exchanges to allergen-free folks, who proceed to scarf them down in heaping handfuls in front of you, and you just can't stand withholding yourself any longer. Well, at least I could not.
I've been making roast nuts at Christmas for about four years now, and each time I share it with someone for the first time, I get asked for recipes, which I gladly give. Why should I deny those blessed with stronger taste buds? Knowing I can't share in the wealth of my work, I'm more than happy to watch them indulge--to a certain extent.
One year, I had set to work at making a large batch of roasted nuts for an office party, and had about 3 pounds of unsalted Planters in a pile, next to carefully measured cinammon, sugar, melted sweet cream butter, salt, and a few egg whites. My cookie sheets awaited the fragrant spread of candy-coated legumes, which I evenly mixed and spread in a thin layer on to the first sheet, where they lay shiny and sleek under the glaring light bulb and red-orange heat rods of the oven. A dozen or so minutes went by, and the spiced-nut infused aroma that filled the kitchen, a scent I knew all too well, was bearing down on me much stronger than I anticipated.
Glancing at the other cookie sheets needing to bake yet, I felt a sudden loss of will power drain from me as the timer on the oven sounded, making me jump to my feet and whip out the sheet, now laden with dark-glazed nuts, all crystalizing with sugar granules, and set it carefully on a cooling rack, transfering another into the oven.
Standing surrounded by the piles of uncooked nuts, the smell of roasting cinammon and feeling that relaxing, warming heat from the oven, I thought one small handful of my handiwork was worth the risk, not overkill.
I scooped up a spatula and broke apart about six or seven nuts from a large cluster, and inhaled, chewing a bit too fast for fear the strong heat within the nuts would sear my gums, as well as cause them to swell and crack. But oh, the taste was amazing, strong, and the perfect balance of salt, sweet, crunch, and fresh-from-the oven heat, all in the few seconds of indlugence I let myself enjoy.
Minutes later, when I felt the tingling itch of my gums sending signals to my jaw to grind against itself, scratching away the stinging irritation of peanut residuals interspersed between molars and gumlines, I had to grin.
Five seconds in peanut heaven meant five hours of total discomfort, but at least the urge to devour entire cookie sheets of roast nuts was gone, and I accepted the next 24 hours as compensation for going against my DNA. For me, it was a small price to pay for a bit of cheer that, this time, I wasn't going to just pass on to the others.