Sunday, May 16, 2010

Goodbye Little Darlings!

I love pine nuts.  They are so much more rich, buttery and luxurious than other nuts.  They add just the right smooth, fatty element to so many recipes.  They are now part of my past.  I tossed the little bowl here right after taking the photo.  Why would I be so wasteful?  Pine Mouth -- the dreaded malady which can sometimes occur after the consumption of nuts from some parts of Asia, or those which have been stored incorrectly.

Early on in my vegan journey, when I was still in a somewhat defensive stance, I was beset with a strange and maddening symptom -- a pervasive, metallic and bitter flavor in the mouth.  This may not sound like much, but it was so unpleasant that for a while I could think of nothing else.  And worse, everything I put in my mouth tasted awful!  I thought about going to the primary care physician, but realized the first question would be, "Have you made any changes in your lifestyle?" I was not in the mood to be told to cease and desist with the veggies.  So I WebMd'ed the problem, to no avail.  To make a long story short, I finally turned to Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life website, which has turned out to be, among many other wonderful things, an informational clearinghouse concerning all things vegan.  On the Forum, I just put the question out there, and on day 8 of my horrible mouth, I blessedly received the answer:  to one Kind Life follower, my symptoms sounded like "Pine Mouth" a reaction to the rancid oils of spoiled pine nuts.  She described my symptoms in such detail that I was sure it was what I had.  She explained that the nuts do not taste rancid despite the fact that they are, and that the oil actually stimulates the liver to over-produce bile, so the horrible taste is bile in the bloodstream.  She went on to say not to worry, that the symptoms should subside in 5-11 days.  Since I was on day 8, I took heart.  The whole thing was over three days later.

Grateful to understand what had happened, I tossed the remainder of the pine nuts in my pantry, and resolved to be more careful about reading labels and storage in the future.  A couple of months later, with a new batch stored in the fridge, I ventured once again into pine nut territory.  Sadly, the day after my first try with the new pine nuts, I got a touch of the telltale symptom.  I had done everything right, so I can't say exactly what the problem was this time.  It is possible that in this southern locale the nuts spoil more easily, or it could be that my system is now sensitized to the oil and will react this way whether it is rancid or not.  In any case, pine nuts and I are now history.  The price is too high.

To end on a positive note, we had our first harvest of arugula last night!  The bounty was 5 minutes from garden to belly -- bright, young, tender leaves with a lovely lightly peppery flavor, mild, delicious, and ALIVE!  We topped the leaves off with slivered almonds, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  Almonds are my friend.

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