Now that the consensus of media dieticians is shifting from carbohydrates to fats and proteins, I should like to put in a contrary word for chestnuts. They are very starchy indeed, contain little fat, and just a trace of protein. They are admirable roasted or boiled, and can be eaten au naturel once elegantly stripped of their casings. (Whereas, raw potatoes or yams are no fun at all.) They contain vitamins that other foods omit, better apportioned through a delicious nut than by chewing on manganese or copper. Moreover, they are real nuts, not fake ones like almonds and cashews, or peas passing themselves off as “groundnuts.” Those are all fats and useless calories. Chestnuts will make you fat, thus cutting out the middleman.

Which is why they have been fed to pigs, these last few hundred years; that, and the appalling propaganda mounted against chestnuts by our culinary elites. The European poor once ate them in quantity, as their filler; made bread from chestnut flour. Italians, harder to intimidate by fashion than most others, still adore their subtle flavours.

These thoughts were occasioned by a sealed bag of peeled chestnuts, casually purchased the other day as a snack while walking. They were candied in a rather disagreeable way. But worse, I unfortunately failed to read the label attentively, or would have noticed that the contents were “organic.” No intelligent consumer will buy anything on which this warning is prominently displayed. Quite apart from the doubling or tripling of the price, the product itself may be missing some important ingredient.

Children raised on “organic” food become weak and sickly. Those raised “vegan” as well are likely to die. If you find a child perishing in this way, be merciful and fill him with meat and chestnuts.

Or if no meat-bearing animal is in sight, the chestnuts alone will make a fine ragoût. Fill a saucepan with them (skinned and peeled), add salt and loaf sugar and a sprig of thyme, and more than you thought necessary of butter. Then drown all this in a good seasoned broth. Put lid on saucepan, and simmer for an hour. All the liquid will be absorbed in the chestnuts; and while hot they are fabulous.

Chestnuts make excellent stuffings, and creamed soups; compôtes with apples or oranges; soufflés with eggs either chicken or quail; sublime cake mixtures. In Heaven, they serve hot chestnuts with prunes in a sherry syrup touched with cinnamon and lemon. Always on silver, as Mrs Leyel prophesied.

French tinned and tubed preparations with chestnuts are not to be despised, though unavailable in the groceries of Parkdale. To some tastes (mine for instance) they may be “too too”; the integrity of the chestnut is lost in the confection. For the antecedent texture of the chestnut should be somehow preserved, if only in an allusion.

Roasted, they can be “just so.” There used to be chestnut vendors outside the Royal Ontario Museum; I should think they were also by the Museum at Alexandria. Since these splendid men with their charcoal trays were replaced by the vendors of hot dogs, no visit to the museum has been the same. My most beloved Sung-dynasty pots only make me think of chestnuts.