Pining for nuts

Let it never be said that life here in South Africa is easy. Sure, the weather is ridiculously good, despite this being midwinter, and the views, the expats and the beer are utterly spectacular, but there are always difficulties as well. I’m talking about allegations of corruption in Government, violent strikes in the engineering sector, petrol shortages and the price of pine nuts.

Yes, C Emily Dibb of Muizenburg has written in to everyone’s favourite letters page in the Cape Times and is very upset about how much pine nuts cost here in Mzansi. I feel her views deserve airing  – and indeed comment – here on 6000 miles…

Pining for nuts

On a recent visit to Turkey, I was captivated to find how many of their traditional dishes contain pine nuts; they are an integral part of many of their meat-ball recipes.

From this opening line, we can make several deductions. Firstly, that C Emily Dibb has recently visited Turkey, secondly that she is captivated by the weirdest things and thirdly that many traditional Turkish dishes are meat-ball based. (This last one is a bit of an assumption, but I’m sticking with it.)

I’ve never been to Turkey, but a quick search online reveals that there are many more captivating things in that country than the percentage of local ground beef recipes which contain pine nuts. I found articles on historically varying architecture, bewitchingly fascinating geothermal spas and hugely concerning foreign policy.
I found nothing about meat-balls. Nothing particularly captivating, anyway.

Emily continues:

Hoping to try some of these myself on my return home, I looked for pine nuts in the supermarket, and was staggered to find that they cost nearly R50 for 100g – a shattering R500/kg.

Before we go any further, I must congratulate C Emily Dibb on not using any exclamation marks in that last sentence. This is the mark of a true writer; one who was brought up in the old school when ZOMG! wasn’t an acceptable way of conveying acute surprise and the surcharge on punctuation put it beyond many people’s means.
Because C Emily Dibb is acutely surprised. In fact, as you may have read above, she is staggered, which is two rungs further up the astonishment ladder from acute surprise (just beyond plainly shocked).
Emily C Dibb also demonstrates that she is from the old school of mathematics as well, with that effortless extrapolative calculation to the standard economic unit of pricing, the Rand per Kilo value. I bet she did that in her head. You? You needed a calculator.

But point taken, Emily C Dibb. Pine nuts are expensive.

In Turkey, the pine nuts are produced in Anatolia on estates that grow nothing but the Mediterranean umbrella pine.
Are we missing a good trick here?

These final two lines score highly on the my scale of what an ideal letters page letter should contain, that is, a meaningless fact and an utterly obscure question. These elements have featured widely before, including the sublime:

My house reeks of your cat, and it is very embarrassing.

What is C Emily Dibb proposing here, exactly? That the local agricultural industry move over from its staples of mielies, sugar, grain and grapes and concentrates solely on a niche product from Eurasia in order to bring her recent holiday’s culinary memories closer to being within her financial grasp? Has she really thought this through? Because where would that leave our economy, with particular reference to duties on wines and spirits and export of produce to our neighbouring countries? Is she honestly suggesting that ever last hectare of South Africa’s 146,5224.44km² of arable farmland be devoted to the growing of the Mediterranean umbrella pine?

Sure, that’s enough pine nuts for a great many Turkish meatballs (I was going to do some rudimentary calculations, but the yield of the Mediterranean umbrella pine is hugely variable, as I’m sure you’re aware), but with supply and demand weighted heavily on the supply side of things, the international pine nut market will surely crash and we will be left destitute and economically ruined – even before Julius Malema has had his way. There are no by-products in the Mediterranean umbrella pine, save for, presumably, umbrellas [are you sure? Please check this before we publish – Ed] and we don’t need umbrellas here.

You’ll get your meat-balls. Oh yeah. You’ll get your memories of your holidays with the wrestlers, the architecture and the increasing Syrian refugee problem. You’ll get all of that, C Emily Dibb, and I’m sure you’ll find a myriad of pine nut containing dishes to be captivated by while the country is starving albeit well sheltered from precipitation.

No, C Emily Dibb. I reckon that if you can afford a holiday to Turkey, you can afford fifty bucks for 100g of your beloved and captivating pine nuts. And you can fiddle and fine tune your recipe to use less of this pricey and scarce imported ingredient and get to nibble on as many meaty balls as your heart desires, while not destroying the livelihood of the good farmers of this country with your megalomaniacal, Nazi plan to force them into growing one single, useless (save for addition to traditional Anatolian foodstuffs) crop.