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1.10.12 Chestnuts, Old & New

Hoary old chestnuts. Those are well-worn aphorisms and anecdotes, close kin to the cliché. Curious as to the origin of this phrase, I searched online and found a long-winded reference tracing it back to an English play of the mid-19th century. I had thought it would refer to the fact that chestnuts, encased in their hard shells, last a rather long time. Did you know the chestnut is also called chinkapin or chinquapin? By any other name, it's still the nut of a tree that belongs to the same family as the beech and the oak. I'd never prepared chestnuts, nor particularly enjoyed eating them on the rare occasion they appeared on my plate. They're always so dry and chalky. People do seem to love them, though—Americans in their Thanksgiving stuffing, the French obsessed with their marrons glacés. Vendors with carts full of roasting chestnuts—a romantic throwback to sweeter times—are still a common sight in many cities (London, New York, Rome), but I have to confess that acrid and sooty smell has never been my favorite. So it's no wonder that the jar I convinced myself to buy last year sat forlornly at the back of my cupboard these long months, getting hoary. Then I came across a recipe for chestnut and parsnip bisque. A vegan recipe, no less.
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