Friday, February 25, 2011

Nuts to You

Unless you are at least a half a hundred years old, you have never tasted the greatest nuts in the world, those of the Shah of Iran. Only the wealthiest in Iran were able to savor his Persian nuts. Do you wonder how this has any relevance to today’s political mess in the Middle East? It goes back through history, to the meddling of the CIA, to the US Military, and to several of our presidents meddling with my favorite snack food, the pistachio.
Each December, I longed for the arrival of a huge carton to arrive in the mail from the Shah of Iran’s pistachio company. This box was as anticipated as eagerly as the appearance of Santa himself. My family would purchase a case of Iranian pistachios as holiday gifts for their deserving friends. The twelve-inch bags of nuts cost ten dollars in 1967. I was the delivery girl. Those on the gift list watched by their doors for me to arrive, holding the Shah’s nuts in my hands. Everyone loved the Shah’s nuts. He had the tastiest nuts on the globe, and thanks to the great-grandson of a president, we could put them in our mouths anytime we pleased.
You see, two years after I was born, in 1953, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr, yes, his name was Kermit, completed the CIA’s first overthrow of a foreign government. Code-named, Operation Ajax, it worked just like a toilet bowl cleanser. The newly elected president of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddeq, was scrubbed away like a scum ring. Mosaddeq had upset the US and Britain, because he had nationalized the oil companies of Iran. Even though the oil did not belong to the West, we had controlled it for years. We did not enjoy playing fair. Kermit and his pals orchestrated a coup d’├ętat that began the 26-year dictatorship of the Shah. The Shah loved his western buddies and exported his oil, carpets, and pistachios to them. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? It was nuts to Mosaddeq, and lots of nuts for me.
These happy days for the Shah and his secret police force, not dissimilar to the SS, lasted until 1979, when very much like today, the people took to the streets. In Tehran, they demonstrated against the ten percent unemployment in their country, the nasty police, the Shah, and us, the US. When the crowds got too much to handle, the Shah left on a sudden vacation and never returned. The Ayatollah Khamenei swooped in wearing a flowing white, Shiite Islamic robe, and the good times ended. Thanks to Jimmy Carter’s southern hospitality, the Shah was given asylum in the Untied States. They had a lot in common. They were both nut farmers.
This camaraderie pissed off the Ayatollah. Everyone in Iran remembered what Kermit had done to their beloved Mosaddeq. Iranian students stormed the American embassy and took hostages. The US countered with another operation called, Eagle Claw. Unfortunately, the eagle turned out to be more of a wounded pigeon, and for 444 days, Americans were glued to their televisions watching their impotent government held hostage. Nuts to Carter. His career was over. The Shiites were in control of Iran. From 1979, the power of that region remained in a delicate pyramidal balance between Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. That same year, an embargo was placed on goods from Iran, which not only included oil, but my beloved pistachios as well.
Now as a college graduate, I had become completely addicted to yummy nuts. I only cared about the oil, because sleeping in my car with my husband, in the long gas lines in the summer of 1979, was not particularly fun. There were no Iranian nuts which to pass the time. The embargo had seen to that. However, with Hollywood’s Ronald Reagan at the helm, the California farmers began growing pistachios. As a Middle East nut aficionado, I find the California pistachio as bland as a mashed banana. Nuts to Iran, to the Ayatollah, and to me.
After many years, things began to change for Iran. That fateful attack by the Taliban on September 11th caused the US jumped in again. They ousted the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq. Whoops, gone now were Iran’s two biggest regional enemies, the ones who had held them in check for twenty-five years.
In 2010, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah party forced the collapse of the pro-US government in Lebanon. And the beginning of this year, we saw Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, friend of the US, leave for a sudden vacation after only eighteen days of protests and demonstrations by his people. At this moment, Syria and Iran, who were unusual bedfellows in their hatred of Saddam Hussein, are discussing their plans for the future of Egypt over a big fat bowl of pistachios. The people of Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Yemen have gone to the streets to protest their governments. The powers in the Middle East are currently spinning. Qatar and Oman are reported by the media, as tilting toward Iran like the moons that circle Jupiter.
It appears to me that the US and her allies in the West will have to take action again. We failed with Operation Ajax and Operation Eagle Claw. Operation Iraqi Freedom has lasted for eight years. I propose a new strategy - Operation Pistachio. We need to liberate the Iranian pistachio trees for the world. Since President Reagan’s rule, California has had its chance to earn money by growing pistachios. Their state is as bankrupt as a Donald Trump casino. It’s nuts to California now. We need to improve foreign relations with Iran by importing their nuts again. In doing so, Iran would be bound to us in a symbiotic relationship, not unlike that of Anna Nicole Smith and her octogenarian oil magnate, not for our thirst for oil, but rather for our pistachio consumption.
We need to march in the streets from Hershey, Pennsylvania to Orange County, California, holding our banners high for Iranian pistachios in all of our ice cream flavors. Ben and Jerry, are you listening? We need to replace popcorn in the movie theaters with those delicious little nuts. Make a pledge now, to never order cashew chicken for a take out dinner. Here’s to pistachio chicken instead. Our new war cry for Peace in the Middle East will be: Nuts to Us!

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