Ode to Hot Nuts

April 20, 2007, 6:04 PM UTC

Today we’re going to take a little break from the everyday craziness, crunch and groan of business to celebrate one of the true, pristine moments in the world of global commerce. It won’t take very long, because it’s a very small pleasure.

Here it is: You are sitting in Business Class of American Airlines (AMR). Possibly the seat is even more sweet because you have been upgraded to it. Let’s say it’s on a Friday afternoon, and the work week is done (except for the 200 emails and 15 distressed phone calls that will come over the weekend). You have kicked off your shoes and taken the fifteen minute nap that precedes the Captain’s first unnecessary, blase announcement about altitude, flight time, and the fact that you’re going to pass over Sioux City on your way west. Who cares? That’s all right. No one can call you here. Your BlackBerry is off. And a cart is coming toward you down the aisle.

A flight attendant has appeared at your elbow. What would you like to drink? I believe I’ll have a double Glenlivet, with a splash of soda. It will go very nicely with the little dish of that thing I’ve been waiting for. Anyone who has ever flown up where the seats have footrests knows what I’m talking about. It’s the hot nuts.

Sometimes they are very hot, and that’s not quite right. They get over-nuked and weird. Sometimes they are not hot enough, and baby bear doesn’t like that either. Too crispy and quotidian. But sometimes they are… just… right. And then, well, it’s possible there is nothing more complete, more precisely what it is supposed to be. There are cashews and walnuts and even, I think, the odd hazel nut, too, with a rare, precious shelled pistachio thrown in just to make you feel like royalty. A few years ago, in an effort to save money, they inserted these horrendous, insulting soy beans into the mix. The cries of woe were so great that they removed the offensive offal almost at once. Back came the cashews. World order was restored.

There’s clearly been a lot of corporate thinking behind this entire issue of in-flight snacking:

Hot nuts! Sometimes I take them slow and savor them. Other times I wolf them down and ask for more. That’s a mistake. One bowl is perfect. Two is decadent, and makes you feel like Dennis Kozlowski or something. There are many things you think about before you fly. You think of the hours in the air. You think about how many things you’ll miss while you are away from the world, returning to find innumerable emails that must be ameliorated. But me, most of all, in the hours before I rise up into the silent blue, there is generally one thing on my mind: That little unimpeachable portion of hot nuts, and how I will miss it when I leave this business life and go back into the land of turkey wraps, potato chips, and seats that recline a quarter of an inch.