A Turtle Isn't a Turtle Without the Pecan

Baked Elements. Thanks Diana, I promise to make you a nut-free version soon…maybe with pulverized and whole malted milk balls?>

I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t eat the flourless chocolate cake that my coworker brought to work yesterday for our manager’s birthday celebration. It’s just a fact of my life—one that I learned to accept at an early age—that there are, have been, and will be many scrumptious, slobber-worthy desserts offered to me over the course of my life that I will not be able to try. For example, my manager’s birthday cake was sprinkled with a healthy coating of chopped nuts. I’ve been told that nuts go well with chocolate. People like nuts. I, however, the girl with the nut allergy, will never understand their appeal.

Fortunately my reaction to tree nuts (not peanuts but pecans, almonds, macadamias, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.), on a scale from mild to life-threatening, falls at some point around “unpleasant,” “annoying,” and “I’d rather not take my chances.” It’s mild enough that I can even handle nuts, smell them, and enjoy food items that “may contain traces of nuts” without a problem. When I was younger, more adventurous, and less willing to accept that I couldn’t eat the lone banana muffin laden with walnuts left on the continental breakfast buffet, I would desperately attempt to nibble around the nut chunks. By skillfully removing the pesky offenders, I could steer clear of a reaction and kind of/sort of enjoy my breakfast. As fun as it was for me to pretend to heroically rescue the banana muffin from the villainous walnuts, that sort of imaginative scenario couldn’t keep me (or my mother) entertained for long. I realized that muffin crumbs are not glorious – they’re just evidence of what once was a glorious muffin.

These days, few things excite me more than coming across nut-free offerings of some of my favorite desserts, which include banana bread and carrot cake. I’ll argue that both are just as good—if not better—without nuts. On the other hand, there are certain desserts that simply cannot be without nuts. No matter how hard I wish otherwise, there is not and never will be a nut-free, Diana-friendly version of French macarons, baklava, or pecan pie.

Sometimes I’m called upon to make nutty desserts that cannot be modified to my needs but that my friends and family love. Every Thanksgiving my family bakes a pecan pie. Most recently, I made chocolate Turtle-inspired thumbprint cookies. I bake these treats because, within my household, nuts are thoroughly enjoyed and nearly sacred (especially pecans)—they’re either instantly devoured or saved indefinitely. I have watched pecans disappear from one mixed nut jar after another mixed nut jar while the lowly almond settles at the bottom. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that a bag of leftover pecans from last Thanksgiving’s pie are still being guarded by my mother, who prohibits anyone from eating them. Although I can’t try my pecan pie or Turtle cookies, I’m okay with that. I have to be. Besides, I’m less selfish when I bake nutty goods—you say you want every crumb? No problem. I’d love for you to eat them all.