Your Unofficial Guide to Cracking Walnuts*
Your family is going to say a word to you that you don’t know (actually, several) and hold up a burnt little black ball. You will flounder and call it a chestnut and say you roast and eat these at Christmas time, but when they look at you like you’re crazy, just whip out your SpanishDict. That’s probably what you should have done in the first place. Hint: the word for walnut is nogal.
Next they will bring you over to a corner of the yard and sit you down with a brick and hammer. Let your host sister show you how she does it first before you try anything.
As she pounds on the walnut, observe carefully before trying anything. Your brain might think, “I can do that! Hand me a hammer!” But be warned: those are famous last words, my friend.
She’ll hand you a hammer and let you go at it. Your nervousness about hitting your fingers with the hammer will stop you from banging on the walnut as hard as you should. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t crack your first nogal (or three). Also don’t be discouraged if some host family members laugh at you—it means they’re comfortable with you. Laugh with them and keep trying.
When the fourth walnut you’ve hit has gone flying another ten feet into the garden, eventually your abuelita will come over. She’ll mutter something about a hammer and come back with a rock bigger than her fist. Try not to let your jaw drop when she cracks that sucker in two hits. Abuelitas are a force of nature.
Eventually you’ll become so frustrated that you’ll take out all your anger on that poor unsuspecting nut. In an explosion that rivals the Big Bang, you’ll splinter the nogal into a thousand pieces. Letting out a triumphant guffaw at this point is a privilege you’ve rightfully earned.
With this newfound strength and power, you can vanquish any foe. Go forth into this year with the knowledge that even if it takes a couple thwacks, you can crack any nogal you encounter. Paciencia y fe, querida, paciencia y fe.