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#152432 - Mon Jan 13 2003 08:25 PM Strength, or Technique?
MsBatt Offline
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Registered: Sun Dec 16 2001
Posts: 883
Loc: Alabama USA
I'm in the middle of reading Thomas Harris' book "Hannibal", and one of the characters keeps putting on a show of strength by taking a pair of walnuts and cracking them in her hand.

I don't get it---my daddy taught me to do this when I was five! I'm 5'1" and small-boned, and though I've played piano since I was 11, my hands are NOT unusually strong, and I could crack a pair of walnuts in my hand as a child. Do I come from a weird family (well, yes, but---) or is there something I'm missing here?

I AM assuming they're talking about English walnuts, since Samson Himself couldn't crack a black walnut without tools---preferably an anvil and hammer.
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#152433 - Mon Jan 13 2003 09:18 PM Re: Strength, or Technique?
LadyCaitriona Offline
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Registered: Thu Feb 08 2001
Posts: 5985
Loc: Ottawa
Ontario Canada
MsBatt - excellent book!

As to the walnuts, I have no idea. I've never tried. And I don't like walnuts, so I've never been tempted to try.
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#152434 - Tue Jan 14 2003 04:23 AM Re: Strength, or Technique?
ProofReader Offline
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Registered: Sun Oct 27 2002
Posts: 389
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
Oh, technique for me every time!

Oh, sorry, what were we talking about?

Yes, good book indeed.

I reckon I could crack a pair of nuts in one hand too, given the appropriate circumstances. Lucky for some, I've never had to try yet!

I should tell you the story about my cousin and I breaking my uncle's vice whilst trying to crack macadamia nuts ... another time maybe!
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#152435 - Tue Jan 14 2003 05:21 AM Re: Strength, or Technique?
ren33 Offline
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Registered: Thu Sep 30 1999
Posts: 12402
Loc: Kowloon Tong  Hong Kong      
Cracking nuts this way... isn't it what everyone does when they have misplaced the nutcrackers when Christmas comes?? I always did that too., you are not alone...
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#152436 - Tue Jan 14 2003 06:10 AM Re: Strength, or Technique?
tellywellies Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Sat Apr 13 2002
Posts: 5398
Loc: South of England
Huh! that's nothin' , I can crack them with my teeth. I really ought to give that up though, or one day it won't be the nut that cracks!
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#152437 - Tue Jan 14 2003 08:42 AM Re: Strength, or Technique?
lefois Offline
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Registered: Fri Feb 01 2002
Posts: 6246
Loc: Kitimat BC 
Canada
When I was small we didn't see much of my Dad. I do remember the Christmas thrill of being at my paternal grandmother's house and my Dad first demonstrating and then having us break walnuts open all by ourselves! Driving a straw through a raw potato was another exciting discovery I read in a kids magazine. Made me feel rather titan! Doesn't take much for me, though, as I was really chuffed when I could blow a "raspberry" through a blade of grass held between my two thumbs!

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#152438 - Tue Jan 14 2003 02:08 PM Re: Strength, or Technique?
fjohn Offline
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Registered: Mon Dec 06 1999
Posts: 2742
Loc: Wyoming USA Way Out West
Ah! Fond memories of blowing "raspberries" through a blade of grass. We used what was known as "quack grass" stretched between cupped thumbs. The tighter the blade of grass, the more obnoxious the sound.
MsBatt, I think you are right about not being able to crack black walnuts without heavy duty mechanical aid. I remember one year we had a bushel of unhusked walnuts, each the size of a baseball. After laboriously peeling the husk and extracting the nut our hands were stained for weeks. Nothing would remove walnut stains except time to grow another layer of skin.
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#152439 - Tue Jan 14 2003 03:07 PM Re: Strength, or Technique?
MsBatt Offline
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Registered: Sun Dec 16 2001
Posts: 883
Loc: Alabama USA
The stain from Black walnut husks is supposed to be a curative for some kinds of skin troubles. Meself, I think it probably just masks it until, like you say, a new layer of skin is grown!

We used to remove the husks by pouring them in the driveway and running the car back and forth across them a few times. We'd crack them with a hammer, against a concrete block. We kids always got assigned the task of picking out enough to make a batch of fudge, and it would take us HOURS! But boy was it good.
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#152440 - Wed Jan 15 2003 11:34 AM Re: Strength, or Technique?
Biggles Offline
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Registered: Thu Jan 09 2003
Posts: 170
Loc: England
I have never heard of a black walnut, it must be something that did not cross the Atlantic. The nuts I always have trouble with are Brazils. The shells seem to be made of something like cast iron and when they do finally cave in they do it with such force that the nut is crushed. I've given up buying them in shells and now buy the pre-shelled ones. I wonder how they get them out in one piece?

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#152441 - Wed Jan 15 2003 05:45 PM Re: Strength, or Technique?
ProofReader Offline
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Registered: Sun Oct 27 2002
Posts: 389
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
I'd never heard of black walnuts either, Biggles! As for brazil nuts, I used to position the nutcrackers at one end of the nut rather than in the middle. At least that way you usually get half a nut uncrushed!!

However, I don't bother buying nuts in their shells anymore. Nobody seems to be bothered with them these days and they hang around for ever. A by-product of our 'fast', 'throw-away' society I suppose - people will happily pay more for 'quick' convenience. So sad in many ways.
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#152442 - Thu Jan 16 2003 02:05 PM Re: Strength, or Technique?
MsBatt Offline
Mainstay

Registered: Sun Dec 16 2001
Posts: 883
Loc: Alabama USA
Black walnuts probably only grow in the Americas, maybe just North America. Imagine a regular walnut, size-wise, but with the shells being something like a quarter-inch thick, and made of---well, cast iron is a good example, lol! The meat is much like regular walnuts, but slightly darker, and the flavor is MUCH deeper and richer! They give off a smell that suggests fermentation would be almost effortless. (I know that doesn't SOUND apetizing, but they really ARE wonderfully good! And I always imagine some liquer made from them.)

Cracking them does require some heavy muscle, and at least a couple of bricks. (Although I HAVE occassiionally broken a brick instead of a walnut.) And smashing them usually results in a lot of little jibbles, so you should always be prepared to eat a little shell with your nutmeat.
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#152443 - Thu Jan 16 2003 05:30 PM Re: Strength, or Technique?
sue943 Offline
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Registered: Sun Dec 19 1999
Posts: 37326
Loc: Jersey
Channel Islands    
Almonds used to be impossibe to crack but they seem to have bred a soft-shelled one. Buying pre-cracked nuts is nowhere near enough fun, cracking nuts is part of Christmas for me.

Who does the nut cracking for the commercially cracked nuts, does anyone know?
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#152444 - Sat Jan 18 2003 08:41 AM Re: Strength, or Technique?
chelseabelle Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Thu Oct 07 1999
Posts: 10282
Loc: New York USA
Well Sue, they have a team of incredibly well focused squirrels who are willing to work for far less than the minimum wage...

Walnuts are easy compared to trying to crack pignola nuts (also called pine nuts or Indian nuts)--those little devils are just hard to get open. As kids we used to manage to crack those with our teeth (I guess that must have involved technique as much as strength), now I can't manage to do it even if I toss them in a bag and hit it with a hammer, a technique which also smashes the nuts . I buy them shelled now, which is much more expensive, but I do get to eat more of them faster.

Now, being able to crack open fistfuls of pignola nuts, just with your hands, would be quite an accomplishment.
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