Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chestnuts For All Soul's Day

November 1st is All Soul's Day, an important holy day for Catholics throughout the world. It's the day to honor the souls of loved ones who have passed. In Mexico , it's called Day of The Dead. Families spend it at a picnic in the cemetery honoring their ancestors. There are special skull shaped candies and foods that are eaten. My family has always followed my grandmother's Piedmontese tradition and eaten hot chestnuts. Crosses were made on the tops and the steam rising from them represented the souls of the dead.

Chestnuts themselves are a wonderful and versatile food. They are the fruit of the beech tree and grown on five continents. The nuts were first introduced to southern Europe by the ancient Sardis from Asia Minor (present day Turkey) and have become a staple of Italy, southern France and Greece. (Alexander's army were sustained by chestnuts) They are well known in Italy with chestnut festivals during this time in the North. The Tuscans soak them in wine while the French make the decadent treat marron glace or candied chestnut. The flour can also be ground into flour for baking cakes. Chestnut flour was used in making the original version of polenta

The chestnut is the only nut that has Vitamin C in it. Other vitamins are B1, B2 and B3 along with the minerals zinc, magnesium and phosphorous. Because of these it is a good staple to introduce into a fall and winter diet. Most people usually just eat them on Thanksgiving when they're blended with stuffing. However to get a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals try to have chestnuts on a twice weekly basis when they're in season.

Today is the day we honor our beloved ones who have left us. With that we eat chestnuts to symbolize them. Chestnuts are truly the food of November .Go out and buy them today.

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