I have a series of stringent rules involving the material composition of cakes, candies, and other dessert items. In the past, I have relied on a general rule, "No Hard Things In Soft Things," but it has come to my attention that there are exceptions. In an effort to quell public fear of the unknown, I am sharing the list with you, my friends. There are swear words in the manifesto, because of how important this is.
1) No Nuts In Cake. This is a simple rule, and is unbreakable. There is no present need for nuts in cake, and the taste sensation of biting into something hard while enjoying the smoothness of something velvety soft is something that everyone should be able to avoid with a minimum of fuss and outrage. There are cakes that have whole nuts in them, cakes that have broken nuts in them, and cakes that have ground nuts in them. These are all illegal cakes.
2) No Nuts On Cake. Again, the stress-resistance between the cake and the nuts is too great. There also is nothing visually pleasing about thinly-sliced almonds, for example; it appears as if someone has gone and dumped a crate of Lee Press-On Nails onto the top of the otherwise delicious confection. The usual configuration of nuts on cake consists of a thin layer of chopped nuts slathered on the side of the cake so it looks like gravel. This is easily scraped off onto the closest wall or dog.
3) No Nuts On Pie. I don't see this that much, but when I do, I take pause, gather my strength, and remove the offending nuts in question. Why, I ask an uncaring world. Why does everything have to have the goddamn nuts on?
4) No Nuts In Pie. Unlike nuts in cake, nuts in pie present a more complex dilemma. It is almost possible to remove all of the nuts in question in the first two categories of nuts-in-cake - the whole nuts, and the semi-nuts. But with pie, it is a different story. It's just not worth the effort. If there are nuts hiding in pie, you can bet I'll be somewhere else and I will leave no forwarding address for the odd pie chock full o' nuts.
5) No Nuts In Brownies. I cannot even begin to enumerate the experiences I've had encountering nuts in brownies. These are the nut-infested brownies that escape careful and prolonged visual inspection, usually with a layer of clear fluorescent-lit glass between my eyeballs and the object in question. I will always always follow up my examination with a question posed to the confectioner: "Are there nuts in the brownies?" I don't know why I bother, invariably the answer is "no" and invariably I've just purchased a fucking nut brownie. Now I'm starting to understand why people freak out over trivial things -- what you're seeing is a lifetime of disappointment and frustration finally breaking free and taking majestic flight.
6) No Nuts In Ice Cream. The ultimate soft confection, marred forevermore by the presence of nuts. It will not happen on my watch. It will not happen. Being resourceful, I can dig around the nuts like an inverse treasure hunt ("Rrrrrrrrra, seitam!") and be somewhat satisfied.
7) Nuts On Ice Cream - Okay, with restrictions. Here I am thinking of those nutty-buddy cones, with the sprinkling of ground cashews on top. Combined with the hard chocolate coating, the nuts please me. While on this topic, it seems important to mention that hard ice cream cones are okay. The ability to eat a food's own container trumps the hard-vs-soft problem by about fifty times, and the cone becomes softer, chronologically.
I am still developing this list. There seems to be an infinite amount of foodstuffs to which one can add nuts. Finally, let's wrap this up with a conversation I had with my mother about a year ago:
Mom: And I made a cake for your birthday!
Me: Wow! Thanks! What kind is it?
Mom: It's a carrot cake with white icing, and it's got nuts in it.
Me: ... Great!
Me: No! That's good!
Mom: You're the one who doesn't like nuts.
Adding nuts to soft confections is just one of an entire class of nonsteroidal additive methods which extend (or "juice") foodstuffs to increase the number of available servings. This practice that dates back several centuries, and the ebb and flow of its application parallels that of history's leaner times (e.g. the Black Death, the Great Depression, the WB network). Other (un)popular additives are dried fruits, citrus rind, coconut, and common tubers. Even in times of great bounty, these "juiced" foods seem to remain a favorite with public school students, hospital patients, and military personnel -- with the exception of the soufflé, the contents of which transcend disappointment.
In Bolivia you can get cherimoya ice cream, which contains the (inedible) seeds of the fruit. Taking a bite of ice cream and then having to spit foreign objects onto the sidewalk is about as wrong as you can get.
Bolivia: Bring strainer. Check.
Nuts to Nuts
I personally have never understood the need to put nuts in any food whatsoever. I'll leave the dessert forum to you, but personally, my general rule is "No nuts, no how."
I can't count the number of otherwise fantastic meals (especially around the holidays) when I've sat down to what I thought was going to be a great serving of stuffing only to find that there were almond slivers mixed in there. (At this point it should probably be known that I think almond slivers are satan's minions.)
Cereal is another food that seems to have been invaded by nuts. Wheat flakes, bits of fruit and almond slivers or walnut clusters or pecan chunks. Cereal should eventually end up slightly soggy in your milk. It should not end up as a bi-level conglomeration of slightly soggy stuff on top with hard nuts underneath. Fortunately, these types of cereals tend to be on the top shelves at your grocery store. So, if you're like me, your eyes need never see these offenses to nature if they never rise above the level of the Cocoa Puffs.
I suspect the Chinese are at least in part responsible for this epidemic. They seem to thrive on adding peanuts and cashews to everything. Fortunately, peanuts and cashews are easy to pick out, it's those damn almond slivers that ruin a dish completely. (I will also admit that I do usually eat the cashews. Of course, I eat them separately and apart from whatever dish they came hidden in.)
Lest people think I am just a big 'hater of nuts', let me say that it is untrue. There's nothing better than a handful of salted cashews while sitting around the table playing cards. Honey roasted peanuts are a marvelous treat. And how many fond memories do I have of breaking open hard shells with a silvered nutcracker, while watching football in Grandpa's living room.
It's just that nuts are not a embellishment to anything else. They are a self-standing snack and should be left that way. It is not an advantage or plus to any dish to have to stop and chew up a hard, hidden intruder, when all you wanted was a forkfull of stuffing slathered in gravy.
Yes, I forgot to mention that I am "pro-isolated nut" as well - I am extremely fond of pistachios, cashews, and pistachios. Okay, I don't like that many nuts, but I am not a nut bigot. What are those oily nuts? Walnuts? The ones that look like brains? Those can die, though.
Either you need to make an exception for pecan pie or face armed rebellion. Maybe if the pastry is over, oh, 75% nuts -- wherein nuts are an actual ingredient instead of just filler -- then nuts are allowed. Because I am willing to kill you over pecan pie.
Well, well. It's the pro-nut "army." Let's do a quick headcount ... I see our four-strong anti-nut force has you overwhelmed, Greg. You want to rumble over nut-violated dessert? Bring it on, pie boy.
Even if the ice cream particulates/toppings start out soft, they are soon frozen by the ice cream, making them dangerously HARD! Like Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey pints. There should be a note on the lid that says "Think this through: It sounds delicious, but the bananas aren't soft. They are fronanas now. They will crack your teeth." Same goes for chocolate chip cookie dough (chocolate chip cookie fro).
I've never had the Chunky Monkey Parts, probably because I'm not a big fan of frozen bananas. However, the frozen dough, and the frozen little chocolate/peanut butter cups? Those, I'll dig around, isolate, then eat. A frozen nut though -- it's already pretty tasteless, and if it's frozen, it's not going to melt/thaw in your mouth as the dough and the cup will. Also, the tooth crack text is a good idea -- America loves disclaimers. Caution: This oven is hot when you're using it, Do not use this toaster in a swimming pool, This truck will not make your penis bigger, Don't jump out of this window, etc. [Special to "Greg": five to one]
I have no wish to impede your anti-nut movement. Already, your membership and the raw brainpower behind it are daunting. But I would ask you to reconsider the use of nuts in non-dessert food items. Chicken w/ cashews? The ground peanuts in the dipping sauce of a Vietnamese spring roll? The many uses of the pine-nut in Italian dishes? Perhaps these stray from your original "no hard things in soft things" doctorine, as my examples are more in the spirit of "nuts as a component item of a recipe", which, maybe, is fine with you. Maybe you can clarify, if the horse isn't dead yet. If it is, well, save us from becoming a third rate Chowhound. Please.
ANTI-NUT FORCES MASS AROUND BORDER OF MRBRENT
To clarify: exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis, but are rare. The Vietnamese dipping sauce I am familiar with is pretty much liquid peanuts, I don't recall this ground peanut sauce. East coast thing? Ground peanuts remind me of the ground nuts applied to the side of cakes (see Manifesto bullet point #2) -- it's as if the cook wants to "sneak nuts by" the patron by changing the physical composition of said nuts. That theoretical cook can go to hell. Pine-nuts in Italian dishes are little collectible tears arranged at the side of my plate after I've eaten.
Just read your bits about putting hard things into soft things. (Which reminds me of another Web site I saw once...) I make a lot of zucchini bread during the summer, since my garden produces lots of that squash (whose doesn't). I like to include chopped walnuts in the bread. I noticed you didn't address the subject of hard things in bread. Was this on purpose, or an oversight? My coworkers, neighbors, and family all like my zucchini bread. A lot. Except for this one guy at work, Tito, who can't eat my bread on account of an allergy.
The manifesto was designed to give people a "general idea" of what is wrong with hard things in soft things. If I addressed every foodstuff, and every addition to every foodstuff, it would become lengthy, tedious and wh-- CHOPPED WALNUTS IN BREAD? You will be our first P.O.W.
Once at a wedding reception I was introduced to a dessert named Chess Pie. It is basically Pecan Pie with NO pecans in it. (i.e. It is good.) It was created by scientists to do battle with pecan pie on the streets of Tokyo.
This is how all nut-violated dessert should be. You would buy pistachio nut ice cream, and there would be a big burst on the package that said "CONTAINS NO NUTS" and also "PRODUCED IN A FACILITY THAT DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT A NUT IS."
Dear Mr. Whiney McWhinerton (aka Lookit Me - I've Got Wacky Food Hangups - Check out how WEIRD I am!), What do you care if a cook wants to sneak in nuts or not? This isn't some big conspiracy to "freak you out." It's not all about YOU, ya know.
and - it's not an east coast thing - the peanuts in the peanut sauce, we have it here in Oregon too, where we LOVE hard things in soft things . . .
Thanks for the "head's up," Tastee. I will avoid Oregon in the future!
I liked your site.
Thank you very much for your in-depth report on Domo-kun. I think I love him.
Like you, my brother also loathes nuts in soft food. In the interest of your manefesto, I thought that I would share his contempt for nuts in stuffing/dressing.
Him: Acckk! What the hell is that?
Friend: You always have to have pecans in thanksgiving stuffing.
Him: Then I boycott thanksgiving. It should be illegal or at the very least immoral to put nuts in stuffing.
I am going to have to side with "Greg." I like nuts. I like nuts in
things. Nuts are not hard. Especially not "slivered almonds." If you
think those are hard, I would hate to see what you think of as soft.
Water? Is that soft enough? I don't know who was saying this one, but
somebody started saying that cereal should be soggy. What? No way in
No way in Hell.
I have to say I'm adamantly with Greg on the Pecan Pie enraged masses. In fact... Pecan Pie is only to be homemade in an effort to control the nut to goo ratio. The nut layer should ALWAYS ALWAYS be at least twice the size of the goo layer. NO exceptions. (of course, my own also has a small chocolate layer of mini-morsels who gave their little brave lives to induce the heart attacks of anyone attempting more than 1.5 slices in any one sitting)
Actually, I'll raise the bar even further. I am an avid nut PROponent! Nuts in everything! Got a dish? A dessert, ice cream? Slap some nuts in there, yum yum. (except pine nuts and black walnuts, of which I will not acknowledge existance).
Also, I would be wary of the pro-nut factions, however small in number we might seem. We have a lot of nuts on our side, you see, and we're not afraid to use 'em! Remember those Brazil nuts you spent hours trying to use those shiny silver crackers on in youth? Just image the horror of those shelled missiles raining down from above. Oh, the humanity, no-nut boy, the Humanity.
About the hard/soft rant ... What about that bubblegum ice cream with chunks of bubble gum in it? Isn't that the WORST thing? The chunks are so goddamn hard and FROZEN, and it's not like you can even chew the gum because it gets mixed in with the ice cream and gets a shitty taste and texture.
Well, yeah. I don't eat standard ice cream anymore, I am a big fan of soy-based ice cream. Which, three years ago, tasted like frozen ass, but now they've pretty much perfected the illusion. I mean, some brands have. Others still taste completely not like ice cream. So if you want to avoid the dairy, look for a brand called "Soy Delicious" brought to you by a company named "Turtle Mountain." ???? That's like the restaurant in Kalamazoo called "Chicken Port" or the donut shop in the bay area called "Donut Field." Unless, of course, turtles hang out on mountains. Then I take that all back. Anyway, they don't have a bubble gum variety yet.
your hard/soft manifesto speaks my heart and soul, i tell you. i definitely think your manifesto could use some official lashings for the bread makers out there too. their cavalier use of nuts has become most unbearable. no need for a nut in there. i've lived by these same rules...all the while calling it a polytexural problem...simply to say that the candy bar "chunky" is my worst nightmare. wb
ah, finally! someone has articulated my feelings toward nuts! i must say, i am not anti-nut, completely, but i STRONGLY agree with the isolated nut provision. Nuts should be solitary,(with the exception of case-by-case dish examinations) to be used at the eater's discretion. ANY dish containing nuts, in ANY form or trace should be declared and demarked clearly, before the point of purchase or consumption. NO EXCEPTIONS. NO EXCUSES. NO NE NUTTE.
Used to loathe walnuts ... good for nothing bitter things. Why would anyone willingly put one in their mouth? That is, until I discovered this (I challenge you to try it): walnuts and blackberries. Together. Blackberries must be ripe and room temperature. The ones that come frozen work well because those are usually harvested ripe. Just try it. You will retract everything you've ever said about walnuts. For some reason, the combination just goes, transforms the taste of the walnut, and makes you say "This is what Homo sapiens were meant to do".
I'm with you on the nut manifesto. Unless they are completely pulverized to dust and integrated in such a way that makes texture changes imperceptable, no nuts in my bread, cake, brownies, ice cream, sauces, stuffing, pasta, cereal. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Damn they ruined a perfectly good _____________"
I actually had to physically restrain myself from exclaiming AMEN! out loud when reading your "No Hard Things in Soft Things Manifesto." You left out one area I find particularly impossible to deal with: Nuts in cookies. Why, why, why, does every recipe on the planet have to ruin Chocolate Chip cookies with the addition of walnuts. Why add something hard and crunchy to something that ideally should be chewy and soft. I cannot tell you the years of frustration I've had dealing with this.
Yeah, nuts in cookies, another damned nut mystery to me. If you want nuts in anything, bring a small bag along with you and sprinkle 'em on, to avoid the heartbreaking scene of seeing yet another anti-nut coalition force troop member carefully picking apart his chocolaty chip cookie in a brave and yet neverending attempt to rout nuts and nut clusters from their fortified hiding encampments. Seriously, put the cookie in the microwave, and then jam your stupid nuts in.
"Years of frustration" - I hear your pain, brother. Unless you're a sister. "Shawn" could be a girl's name. Really any name now, could be a boy's name, or a girl's name. Anything goes in this mixed-up world of ours. Let's all just sit back, set an illegal "marijuana"-type cigarette alight, and think about that. Pray that there are no nuts in that. Which reminds me of a conversation I had two days ago with a young man on the streets of our fair city:
"Got some green bud with some big white rocks."
funny, funny, funny, stuff man... And here I was, all these years, thinking I was all alone with that nut thing. I will wake up tomorrow, sore from laughing...
someone just sent me the link to the nut problem. i have the same issue with raisins. i hate being surprised by those. they are a texture menace. and mixing them into something that also includes nuts is just sick. moms were always doing that in order to pretend they could make a cookie good for you.
i thought "Original" Chunky candy bar was the worst idea ever produced. take some perfectly good chocolate and mix what seemed like varieties of bugs into it. geh.
I am strongly pro-nut and find your website highly offensive.
I'm caring. Massively. Guess what? You're human. You'll "bounce back." Or, start up a letter-writing campaign with all of your offended buddies, write the sponsors, be all indignant and get the show cancelled. Congratulations, you've just pissed all over something someone bothered to provide to others, for free. Guess that makes you feel all superior and warm-hearted. Good for you, go to your grave feeling like that while the rest of us just don't care you boring smug robots. You've touched humanity in a way that makes all of us call Adult Protection Services.
Ok, if there is going to be a discussion about nuts in food and all things unholy, can someone puleez address the issue of pickles and picklejuice? Hate the damn things... the juice soaks into everything and contaminates it. No I don't want a pickleburger, I want a burger burger! And no, I don't want a picklejuice potato salad or a pickle macaroni salad. BLECH Picnics would be a much happier experience if everyone just left their pickle jars in the fridge. Or in the grocery store. Even better.