I think that part is saying that his father had a habit of being drunken while watching TV, but the part I cannot understand is polishing off can of almond, I can not translate it in my language if I do not know about something about a possible culture of eating almonds , and how it ralates to being drunken, sorry that sounds silly, but I do need to understand it so that I can translate it in persian language in a good way. Not just translate words. Thank you for helping me.

...“Is she there with you?” I asked. “Would you like me to say something?” I said this more as a challenge than out of politeness, not entirely believing him. Since my mother’s death, I frequently doubted things my father said in the course of our telephone conversations: that he had eaten dinner on any given night, for example, and not simply polished off another can of almonds and a few Johnnie Walkers in front of the television. “They arrive in two weeks. You will see them when you come home for Christmas,” my father said, adding, “Her English is not so good.

2 Answers 2


The speaker is saying that the father frequently would not eat a proper meal for dinner, but would instead simply have a can of almonds and some number of glasses of Johnny Walker whiskey. Eating almonds has no special cultural connection to being drunk; it's just something this particular person did (possibly because the almonds were convenient).

The phrase "to polish off X" is an idiomatic expression that means "to finish or process completely", or sometimes "to completely defeat". The image is someone so hungry they eat every scrap of food until even the plates look like they've been polished.

They were so hungry they polished off everything on the table, including the pieces of parsley used as garnish.

The tennis pro polished off everyone who challenged him, never losing a set.

They stopped on the way home to polish off a few beers.

(Edit) Almonds are sold in various ways. One of these is roasted, (usually) salted almonds in a can, sometimes with other flavors added. It's convenient because they stay fresh until you pull open the can, and the quantity is small enough that one person can eat the entire thing in one sitting.

Also: nuts, pretzels, chips (crisps in the UK), and other heavily salted snacks are often served in pubs/bars because they make the patrons thirsty, which gets them to drink more.

  • I'm mostly puzzled by the "can of almonds" being alluded to -- around here I don't think I've ever seen almonds being sold canned. Do they come in brine? In tomato sauce? Pickled? Aug 20, 2017 at 16:45
  • @HenningMakholm This is a can of Blue Diamond Almonds sold at a popular supermarket chain in the US. I'm sure there are other brands than this, but Blue Diamond seems to advertise the most. They're just roasted, salted almonds, dry in the can.
    – Andrew
    Aug 20, 2017 at 16:51

To "polish something off" in the context of eating means to eat all of it. Here is a dictionary entry. This is a rather informal idiom.

As for almonds, you are perhaps reading a bit too much into it. What the writer is saying is that his father might tell him that he had eaten dinner, but what he had really done is simply eaten another can of almonds and drunk a few shots of Johnnie Walker, while sitting watching the television. The implication is that that doesn't qualify as eating dinner.

"Polishing off a can of almonds" is simply a specific instance of "having a snack." (Rather a large one, it is true.) Also, "having a few drinks" typically implies feeling the effects of alcohol without being fully drunk.

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