Previously: apples are terrible.
Something that seems intrinsic to the human condition is the need to periodically create slideshows of healthy snacks. I do not know why this is the case, but the same eight fistfuls of food regularly make the Internet rounds at least a few times a year. You and I could all name them in our sleep: the two dice’ worth of cheese cubes, some thick-ass yogurt, the palm-sized serving of dried apricots, the banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg and the thought of some pickles, the half-cup of edamame, a carefully measured amount air-popped popcorn, carrots and hummus, something involving a rolled-up tube of deli turkey, and a fistful–always a fistful–of motherfucking almonds.
All nuts are terrible, almost indistinguishably so, but almonds are the worst by virtue of how often they are forced upon us.* You never know when someone’s going to say “Hungry?” and proffer a hefty Trader Joe’s bag full of them. Your doctor will recommend them to you. Every magazine in the world, from The Economist to Women’s Wear Daily, will suggest you eat a bowl of them before going to holiday parties to keep you from overeating at least twice an issue until mid-January, when it will start suggesting you eat a bowl of them every afternoon. The world will never stop recommending almonds to you. And yet you must resist them.
Almonds are deceivers. They contain all the elements of an ideal snack, and yet they taste like the foulest fragments of chalk from the Devil’s schoolroom. They are crunchy; crunchy is good. Pickles and Chex mix and saltines and breadsticks and potato chips are crunchy; they are good. They are salty; salty is good. Deviled eggs and pretzels and chips and guacamole are salty; they are good. Salt and vinegar chips are both crunchy and salty; they are a near-perfect food. And yet an almond is a dusty and a dry and a flavorless thing.
All almonds taste stale; they resist being bitten, to be sure, but there is not the same satisfactory, brittle snap that characterizes the truly crunchy snack. There is the initial breaching of that shreddable, paper-like skin, followed by dental penetration into the wide and chalky interior, then finally chaos as the nut shatters into a thousand little pieces, all of which immediately lodge themselves somewhere deep in the gums. The almond has already been chewed, yet your almond ordeal has only just begun.
Once ingested, an almond will absorb roughly 1000% of the natural moisture found in the human mouth. Do you remember that old rumor that the government classified anyone who had taken LSD more than six times as legally insane? Anyone who eats more than six almonds in a sitting has, legally, died of thirst. It’s the same principle.
Luckily, your mouth will soon be able to rehydrate once you start bleeding from the gums, where flak from a thousand jagged almond slivers have made a thousand tiny cuts.
The texture of an almond is like nothing else in the world. It is not quite crunchy; it is not pleasantly yielding. In some ways it resembles jerky or a particularly overcooked slab of beef. It crumbles and splinters and shatters and pulverizes into dust under the relentless onslaught of the force of chewing. And what does it offer in the way of flavor to compensate for its textural shortcomings? Dust and ashes and nothing. What does an almond smell like? Nothing. What does an almond taste like? A mouthful of sand. A hacking, persistent cough in the night. Longing and despair. Heat without relief. The memory of water.
Here is an anecdote from my friend Greg to illustrate:
I have tried to eat less by eating a whole bunch of almonds.
that did not work out.
there’s just not a whole going on upstairs with almonds
but I was just like, okay, i’m going to eat almonds instead of food
which is what i usually eat
so I got this Costco thing of almonds
like a brick of almonds.
and ate a bunch of them
let’s say, 150 almonds
but then there were still a lot left
and I stopped eating them
so these little moths got in there
wound up with a big bag of moth-eaten almonds
which is sort of the revelation of the final condition of the almond
There are those of you who will seek to defend the almond by attempting to discuss nut butters. Let me assure you: there will be world enough and time to discuss nut butters in the Nut Butters edition of Food Trolling with Mallory. Conserve your strength. Then there are those of you who will attempt to defend the almond by telling me it tastes good chopped up in a brownie, or a Snickers bar, or whatever. Everything tastes good chopped up in a Snickers bar. Your argument is specious at best; I believe you are lightheaded from your almond-heavy diet.
Almonds fucking suck.
*There is in all the world but one nut exception, and that is the tiny packet of peanut fragments that comes with every hot fudge sundae at McDonald’s (are you asking for extra hot fudge when you order your hot fudge sundae? When you order extra fudge, they put fudge on the bottom before they shlump the soft-serve in, then the traditional fudge nearer to the top, so you don’t run out of fudge halfway through your sundae like you usually do. Order the extra hot fudge). It is the exact right amount of peanut, in the exact right shape and size. You pour the peanut dust over your sundae, and it gives the whole thing a little bit of resistance. It’s great.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.