Nut Bowls

Mid-century nut bowl
Mid-century nut bowl

Many of my December memories are linked to food: cut-out cookies, homemade fudge,  fruitcake, and nuts in the shell. Yesterday I saw a display of nuts in the shell at the supermarket and bought a bag. When I got home I dug out my mid-century nut bowl.  Each time I crack a nut, my thoughts go back to chatting with my mother while cracking, and then nibbling on, nuts in the farmhouse kitchen when I was a child.

This morning I browsed through a hundred-year-old issue of Ladies Home Journal and saw an ad for a Parsons Nut Bowl. Nuts in the shell have been a holiday tradition for a long time.

Parsons Nut Bowl Advertisement (Ladies Home Journal, December, 1916)
Parsons Nut Bowl Advertisement (Ladies Home Journal, December, 1916)

44 thoughts on “Nut Bowls

    1. Like you, I don’t think that I ever seen a bowl with a hammer. It seems like the shell fragments would fly all over when a nut is hit with a hammer.

  1. Our nut bowl was made of black walnut, and had a small wooden “pedestal” in the middle with holes for the handles of the nutcracker and the little picks (like dental tools) used to removed the nutmeats.
    We’d buy the fancy nuts by the bag. They only were available between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and included walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts (which had quite a different name!) and filberts — which actually were hazelnuts.

    It was such a treat. Today, it’s hard to find mixed nuts in the shell around here. Maybe people think cracking them is too much work.

    1. Your nut bowl sounds lovely. Black walnut is such a beautiful wood. Supermarkets around here still sell nuts in the shell between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  2. Love that rustic nut bowl. My mother had a smooth wooden one with holes for cracker and two picks. I loved digging out the white insides of the big black nuts and smashing the smaller nuts. Every Thanksgiving I would crack open walnuts and pull out the middles. Then I’d make slits in dates, remove the pits, and stuff with walnuts, squish them closed and roll in powdered sugar–what a treat!

    1. I still like to crack nuts. I always figure that it takes so much energy to crack the nuts that I don’t need to worry about the calories (though I’m probably just justifying eating the nuts).

  3. Love your nut bowl! I just use a glass bowl with the nutcrackers laid on top to quick grab,and use. Wouldn’t that have been a little pricy hundred years ago?

    1. I think that my nut bowl was made from a tree trunk or branch. I can’t quite figure out whether it was a mass-produced item that was sold at stores, or if it was handmade by an individual. I tend to think that it was produced in a factory – but it so rustic that I just can’t decide for sure.

  4. Love that nut bowl…it brought back memories of my dad always
    cracking the nuts and mum tutting about the mess
    all bits made when they flew everywhere…I wish I could go back in time. Have a lovely Christmas Sheryl 🙂

    1. It’s nice to hear that this post brought back some good memories. I love how you described nut cracking and the bits flying everywhere. You have a wonderful way of creating a visual image using words.

  5. My grandparents had a very similar nut bowl that was always full of nuts. I have fond memories of my father spending many cold afternoons sitting on a little chair in our garage wearing a heavy jacket and happily cracking pecans. I wonder if he was content to do so because of the wonderful pies he knew my mother would make with them!

  6. Oh the memories – the nutcracker in your picture is identical to the one my parents had. I still use it when I put nuts out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I’ve never seen a nut bowl like the one you have. I love that it has a designated slot for the nutcracker. Also, it never occurred to me to use a hammer to crack open nuts!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I’m thinking that the nutcracker in my picture may have been purchased separately from the nut bowl – but who knows. I’ve had the nut bowl and nutcracker for years, but their history is kind of murky.

      1. We have one of the Parson nut bowl and hammer. I remember cracking black walnuts by a fire place in our old farm house in Western PA as a 9 year old. We would crack nuts for Mom to use in cooking and cookies, then every once in a while homemade black walnut ice cream. Great memories.

        1. Wow, it’s amazing that you have a Parson nut bowl and hammer. My husband and I cracked black walnuts this morning – but in our cold garage. It sounds much more pleasant to crack them by the fireplace.

          1. We only use pecans in the bowl now. Now that we know the bowl is as old as it is, we may not use it any longer. I haven’t cracked black walnuts in decades.

  7. I have (had?) the exact same nut bowl that you have! (I am not sure if I might have sold it on Ebay in a deluded decluttering moment. Horrors!) I remember cracking the nuts with my Pappaw, trying to get the perfect, unbroken walnut half out of its shell with the picks that surrounded the cracker (did you lose yours?) 🙂

    1. Successfully getting a perfect, unbroken walnut half out of a shell is one of the small pleasures in life. 🙂 It’s interesting that you had the same nut bowl. I wonder what types of stores sold them back in the day. I have one or two nut picks, but I don’t have the full set of four.

  8. I think the best Christmas memories are made in the kitchen. We never had a nut bowl, but I loved helping my grandmother use her nut cracker to get the shells off of the nuts she was using in her baking.

  9. Oh, yes, I remember these. We always had a nut bowl during the holidays, and it was filled with all kinds of nuts. I liked the Brazil nuts, but I recall those were hard to crack. Dad always helped. 🙂 Nice memories.

    1. Yes, Brazil nuts are hard to crack. I’ve been nibbling at the nuts in the photo – and I have a really difficult time getting the Brazil nuts out of the shell in one piece (or even in just a couple pieces).

  10. We had a mid-century nut bowl when I was growing up but I don’t know what happened to it. I always found nuts and fruit in my stocking. I would love to find one of these in an antique shop. Cheers for the holidays!

    1. You might find a nut bowl at an antique shop. I’ve made some wonderful finds over the years. We always got tangerines in our stockings, but I don’t remember getting nuts in them.

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