Killer Cashews


Some of you know all about how Jack and I moved to the country of Panama with two giant service dogs tethered to our wrists at all times. If not, here’s your chance–click here right this moment, buy Clueless Gringos in Paradise, and laugh yourself silly. One of the joys of living in a country where you did not grow up and where nearly everything is exotic and exciting is in sampling fruits and vegetable that you’ve never seen before in your life, or in experiencing them in a totally different way.
Cashews are a good example.
We had four cashew trees in our yard. When I first saw them, I actually said to a Panamanian friend, “Oh look at that fruit! That little thingie on the end looks just like a cashew!”
Well, I was speaking in childish Spanish so it’s possible I said nothing of the sort, but that’s what I meant to say. I once waved a handful of seedpods and flowers at two lovely old ladies I met while walking in the jungle and told them I was looking for my ass, when what I meant to say was that I was looking for treasure. Tesoro-treasure. Trasero-ass.
So, back to those cashew trees.
I was fascinated with them. I picked the fruit–which begins to rot about two minutes after it’s picked–and put it in my morning smoothie. Waited impatiently for the nut to be ready to harvest. The internet explained the roasting process. Roast the nut over an outdoor grill until no more oil came from the between the shell and the meat. Simple, right?
We had a giant outdoor grill. When I told my roasting plans to our gardener, Jose, he shook his head violently and went off with a burst of Spanish of which I understood only that I was not to roast them myself, he would do it. Well, since he didn’t even like me to pick my own fruit, I figured job security was his objection.
On his day off, I picked a hundred or so nuts, built up the fire and began my new experience. How fun! Roasting cashews from my own trees. Wouldn’t the folks back in foggy Humboldt County be jealous?
Gosh. There was really a lot of oil dripping onto the fire from those nuts. Made for a lot of smoke and for bad flare-ups. No problem. I put a large roasting pan under the nuts to catch the drips. Hmm. The pan filled fast and had to be wrestled from the coals and dumped every hour or so. This was a bit more work than I anticipated. Still, at the end of the day I had a lovely big pile of blackened cashews. I decided I’d let Jose do the cracking.
That night, Jack became amorous. Yes, that piece of information is important to the story.
The next morning I woke to darkness. Both eyes swollen shut, hands and arms covered with a rashy-burn so bad the skin peeled off in waxy layers. Jose arrived and went off on another machine gun burst and threw away all my roasted cashews.
Jack had a rash spreading from every single place I’d touched him the night after the cashew roasting. Think about that for just a moment. The redness and itching was like some creeping fungus. He developed a low-grade fever. His throat ached. We drove into Panama City and found a doctor. Stayed in the city for a week while he got steroid shots twice a day. He took steroid pills for two weeks. When the prescribed doses stopped, the rash came back. With a vengeance. Another week in the city. Followed by six weeks on sterioids.
Here’s a little fact I did not know about cashew nuts and that I did not find on the internet until after I’d almost killed my husband.
The oil between the shell of a cashew and the nut’s meat has the same molecular makeup as poison oak. Except it’s about a hundred times more potent.
Here’s a little lesson for any of you who travel or live in lands exotic and unfamiliar to you. When a local tells you something, listen.


About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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15 Responses to Killer Cashews

  1. cocoblaq says:

    Sorry you had to learn that for yourself. I’ve never quite heard it compared to poison oak but I know from first hand experience It’s pretty powerful stuff. We roast cashew nuts over open fire every year. Just haven’t had any incidents with it. But I know for a fact people use the oil (juice, whatever) for crude tattoos. More like planned scaring. Deeply burns whatever part of the skin it’s applied to.

  2. Oh yeah, tattooing with something that scars is dumb as all get out. But then I’m the one who almost killed her husband with cashew oil. Not pointing any fingers. LOL

  3. Herb Hawn says:

    I don’ t recall that story being in your book. Like Cocoblaq says, it is a shame that you had to teach Jack that lesson, when you could have asked me in English and gotten an understandable answer. I have roasted marañón. ‘Course you didn’t know me then, so it worked out as it was meant to. Rough lesson for Jack to let you learn though. I love the juice made from the fruit though, and always try to buy some marañón jelly when I go to Panama. The fruits are about the wettest fruit I have ever seen, pound for pound. Always baffling to me that Panama really doesn’t sell cashews. What you see in the stores is good ole Planters Cashews, at about $6 per can. I did once see a jar of dry roasted cashews that was roasted in Panama.
    Several years ago, some Boy Scouts were doing a fund raiser by selling cashews. The cashews had been improperly roasted and a lot of folks treated to a bad rash too.

  4. Linda Apple says:

    I know what you mean about baby Spanish. My friend Cindy was speaking in a church explaining Gary Smalley’s personality profiles, Otter, Beaver, Lion, and Golden Retriever. In trying to explain the differences she used the pastor’s wife as an example who had a Golden Retriever personality. So when Cindy said that the wife’s eyebrows shot up, the pastor sniggered, and a mixture of chuckles and outrage rippled through the audience. Then the pastor walked over and whispered in Cindy’s ear, “You just called my wife a bitch.”

  5. Linda Apple says:

    Oh, forgot to tell the important part, she was in Honduras.

  6. Your humor helps me so much! Thank you for your articulate ways!

  7. Natine says:

    LOVED the good laugh from this story, although I felt bad for poor Jack. Really like that you were looking for your ass in the jungle; I wouldn’t think to look for mine there… 😉

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