More Than a Trace of Nuts

Nut Lady Art

“O Nobody Ever Thinks About Nuts” by Elizabeth Tashjian

Back in the day when nuts were in the (unhealthy) group of “high fat foods,” I didn’t eat so many nuts. Times have changed. Now, my diet is full of (healthy) nuts. Monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidants, vitamin E, B-complex, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, fluoride and selenium…. How can I express that without being waaa-waaa-waaaaaaa, bored?

That nutty thought occurred to me while absentmindedly weeding through old cookbooks, when suddenly a newspaper clip from 1985 fell into my lap. On one side was for an ad for a diabetes cookbook that no longer interested me, but on the back was a story about a self-proclaimed nut fanatic, Elizabeth Tashjian, aka the Nut Lady. The Google machine led me to her obituary in The New York Times, Elizabeth Tashjian, 94, an Expert on Nuts, Dies. Nuts! I missed the Nut Lady.

The Nut Lady Lives

Elizabeth Tashjian was an accomplished artist who championed the nut. She was the daughter of aristocratic Armenian immigrants and studied at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and the National Academy of Design. See a photo of  young Elizabeth in her studio from the Smithsonian collection.

Ms. Tashjian made vaguely erotic nut-themed paintings, sculptures and masks. To showcase her work and collected artifacts made of nuts, she opened the Nut Museum in Old Lyme Connecticut. Admission to the museum was $2 and a nut. No nut, no entrance. See Nut Galleria, a tour of Elizabeth Tashjian’s nut art statements.

Later in life, Ms. Tashjian she appeared on late night TV – Johnny Carson, Nut Lady MuseumDavid Letterman, Jay Leno, and Chevy Chase  – to promote the Nut Museum and to expound on nuts. She delighted Johnny with a thirty-five-pound coco-de-mer that resembled a woman’s butt. An accomplished musician, she performed her nut anthem,  “Nuts are Beautiful,” on Johnny Carson. Watch the Nut Lady sing.

Elizabeth Tashjian was the subject of a documentary film, In A Nutshell: A Portrait Of Elizabeth Tashjian. It is a sad story about how her house was seized by the government and she was moved into a nursing home at the end of her live.  When the Nut Museum closed in 2002, Connecticut College inherited much of her art.

“Nuts have a heart. Hard and pricky sometimes on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside. That’s my philosophy.” ~Elizabeth Tashjian  (Sound more than a bit like me.)

Your thoughts: Did you know the Nut Lady? Do you eat a lot of nuts?