A Chestnut Education in France

That Christmas song “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” finally got some meaning for me recently in France. I mean, I grew up singing those words for holiday cheer, but never really felt their meaning since I never actually roasted chestnuts on an open fire – not to mention collected them in a rural pasture in the dying light of an autumn afternoon. Travel is a nonstop education. And when I picked my first chestnut off the ground in the tiny village of Lescure-Jaoul in the southwest of France, I quickly learned that attempting to open the spiky things with your fingers is certainly not the way to go. Of course my French friends had grown up collecting chestnuts as a fall rite of passage. So I followed their lead, stepping on the things and causing the shell to open and the dark brown nut inside to roll out. A pony stalked us, waiting for handouts. And indeed later there were chestnuts roasting on an open fire, followed by a little chestnut dégustation with some homemade eau de vie. So organic, so lovely, so French.

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