How To Peel A Walnut

Charlotte Narboni
5 min readJun 17, 2020

I’ll bet that’s a skill you never thought you would need.

Don’t feel bad. I was 30 years old before I learned there is a world of difference between peeled and unpeeled walnuts.

Peeled walnut

It’s a technique I’ve never forgotten. Not difficult, a bit time-consuming, but this gives you an excuse to sit down, turn the TV on, and watch your favorite show while you “skin” those walnut halves.

A bit of history is essential at this stage in my story.

I came upon this important culinary tidbit when I lived in Honolulu with my young daughter, Nicole. Gino, my husband, was stationed in Saigon, Vietnam. That was an “unaccompanied” assignment so, four-year-old Nicole and I were on our own. We spent the year with afternoon visits to Ft. DeRussy, an Army beach with green lawns, swaying coconut palms and the glistening golden sands of the beautiful Waikiki shore.

Nicole, sunbathing on Waikiki Beach, Ft. DeRussy area.

Weekday mornings, Nicole attended kindergarten. I used this time to take tennis and sailing lessons. They were a bust, but then I signed up for Chinese cooking classes at the YWCA. A lot more fun and no sweating. Thanks to Mary Sia, our instructor, I learned techniques and skills that remain with me today.

Our class was limited to 12 students. We assembled weekly at the Y just before lunch; Divided into groups of two, we prepared separate dishes and shared our results at the end of class.

My copy of Mrs. Sia’s Chinese Cookbook and foreword

Mrs. Sia explained our lesson in detail, often adding tidbits of personal history. I don’t think a class went by without Mrs. Sia telling us that she was the first to introduce Peking-style cuisine to her YWCA students. In this she was ahead of her time. For westerners, apart from the spiciness of Hunan style recipes, the exotic nature of anything Chinese did not extend beyond Cantonese-style cooking.

I’ve never forgotten this woman for many reasons; she introduced us to many new tastes. We’d never had a fresh water chestnut or a fresh heart of palm before Mrs…

Charlotte Narboni

Travels Around My Kitchen…Travels Around The World…Travels Around My Life!