Saturday, May 30, 2015
I recently heard two fascinating stories. They are about ordinary things that changed over time. If you're old, you'll recognize the changes when they are pointed out. If you're young, you won't know about them because you aren't aware things were different in the past.
The first story is about pistachio nuts. The second story is about grammar. I'll tell you the first story now and leave the second one for a later post.
When I was young, pistachio nuts were red. Bright red. The experience of eating them was memorable -- your fingers and lips got stained red. You never forget that. For kids, it was fun.
It's been a long time since I've seen a red pistachio nut. I wondered what happened to them, so I did a little research. Here's what I learned.
In the middle of the last century, pistachios became popular in the West. They were imported from the Middle East which was the only place they were grown. The nuts had blemishes so growers dyed them red to conceal the unsightly marks. Humans are hard-wired to avoid food that looks bad and nut-sellers used red dye to cover up blemishes on perfectly-edible nuts.
Later, farmers in California started growing pistachio nuts. With better knowledge and machinery, they learned how to grow nuts that don't have blemishes. This eliminated the need for dye and farmers started selling un-dyed, naturally-beige nuts.
Eventually un-dyed nuts replaced red ones and now it's almost impossible to find a red nut.
If you're old, you remember red pistachios and probably wonder what happened. If you're young, you've probably never seen a red one. Ask your parents or older friends about this and you'll hear their memories of red pistachios.