Explosive Goods Under My Christmas Tree

by Kevin Burton

   One of the Christmas gifts I was given this year by a family friend, came in a bag with a green and white label.  Ostensibly it’s a healthy snack.

   I now wonder if this “gift” was in fact a hostile act. It’s suspicious anyway. I’ve been doing some research.

   The substance inside is listed as dangerous goods under an international maritime code.  And the label reads, Southern Grove…roasted…with sea salt…pistachios.

   Did you know that pistachios can spontaneously combust?  Uh-huh. You better go back and check your stocking. Were those cashews or pistachios you got?

   Better be careful Sugar Bear, that you don’t bring in the new year with a bang.

   Tastingtable.com, a New York-based digital media company focused on food and drink, is my source for this explosive information, but other outlets tell the same story.   

   “It’s true, pistachios can combust,” the website reads.

   “You may have heard this before and thought it was just a rumor, but it’s true that great care must be taken when shipping pistachios, especially overseas.”

   “The popular mid-afternoon treat has the tendency to generate heat on its own if packed in large quantities due to its high levels of fat (45 to 55 percent), and low water content,” the website reads. 

   “The fats in pistachios can break down through reactions with the air as the nut decomposes. According to the Transport Information Service, things get even trickier if moisture is added to the mix. Absorbing too much water from the environment can cause a pistachio’s fatty acids to be broken down by moisture-activated enzymes, a process known as enzymatic fat cleavage.”

   This is the kind of science that keeps you coming back to Page 7 and keeps you scrolling!

    “As the fat decomposes, the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide and, if repeated over and over, can generate quite a bit of heat,” the website reads. “This is how a large container of pistachios sitting in a dark, humid room can spontaneously (or not so spontaneously) combust — and why it’s crucial that they be transported under the right conditions, mainly in low temperatures and a dry atmosphere,” the website reads.

   “This is also why pistachios are categorized under Class 4.2 (flammable solids) of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.”

   That sounds like serious stuff.  So I go back to my gift, and I’m reading the label, looking for some kind of warnings or cautions that would keep my family safe, keep their company safe from lawsuits.

   “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. See nutritional information for fat content,” is what the label says.

   Ha!  Lies, damn lies and statistics, all in the same paragraph!

   Again, tastingtable.com:

   “There are a lot of things you probably don’t know about pistachios. For one thing, the tiny, green, nutty snack that many of us love so much is actually not a nut at all,” the website reads. “Pistachios are technically drupes, as explained by The Guardian, a type of fruit in which the seed, or pit, is surrounded by a fleshy exterior, like peaches, cherries, and mangoes. When you eat a pistachio, you’re really consuming the seed instead of the hardened outermost layer (the endocarp).”

   So the Southern Grove people have omitted vital information about the potential for explosions, but included misleading information about nuts, when pistachios are not even nuts.

   I have just moved the pistachios from the place in our pantry where nuts are kept, two shelves down and one foot to the left, where canned or dried fruit is kept.

   That of course is just the beginning of decisive action I must take in the wake of this new threat.    

   The website indicated that the risk of explosion is highest with large quantities of pistachios, without defining what is and isn’t a large quantity. 

   This is worse than lima beans, which, if you become distracted while heating them on the stove, are not nearly as forgiving as say, green beans, and will burn and take your favorite pot with them into oblivion.

   Why me?  All I really wanted was a snack while watching the NFL playoff games.   

   I have just developed a taste, a craving even, for Cheez-Its.    

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