September 15, 2006

Adventures in Snacking

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Snack time. When you were younger and in day camp, it meant a grape -flavored twin pop that stained your clothing. The two sticks had corny jokes like: what is a ghost’s favorite fruit? (Answer: Booberry). Flash forward three years to elementary school. Snack time meant a juice box and a bag of chips or if your parents were strict, your brown bag included only a water bottle and a seasonal piece of fruit. Now you are in college, and snack time is all the time. As a self proclaimed professional snacker, I’m here to show you the ropes and teach you to take a casual mid meal treat and make it a way of life.
I invite you to step into my world, where the roads are paved with Fruit by the Foot; the houses are made of stale bread, and the only book read to children is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. With luck, your appetite will always be satisfied, your teeth will be filled with cavities, your waistline will grow and eventually you will become obese. And as you wallow in your weight, your head will roll back and you will stare up at the cheese doodle-stained ceiling and proclaim to the snack gods, “It was worth it.” They will stare back at you, and then ask if they can eat the last Tacito.
All hypothetical hypertension aside, I take snacking seriously, and you should also. There are three main categories of snacks. A level one snack is ready to eat. Candy, fruit, soda, chips and any vending machine delicacy are all examples. Level-one snacks are ideal for people who are lazy, short on time, in a convenience store or starving. Most snacks fall into this category. Level-one snacks are fan favorites, and the topic of many a lazy summer day discussion. For example: Why are M+M’s always having a promotion? Think back on the last time in your life when M+M’s weren’t either giving something away, changing their color, shape, size, packaging, or engaging in some sort of marketing fiesta. Is the Mars Corporation terrified that the public won’t accept milk chocolate covered in a colorful candy shell that “melts in your mouth and not in your hand”?
Level two snacks are in limbo. They are the foods you buy from the store but then have to go through a small process of preparation. This lowest form of cooking usually wakes up the flavor in these pre-packaged delicacies. Most level two snacks are finger foods such as pizza bagels, mozzarella sticks, frozen burritos, or the aforementioned Tacitos. Other snacks that fall into this frozen wasteland are Ramen noodles, canned soup, Jello Jigglers (a favorite of Philadelphia based African American comedians / obstetricians), and Lunchables. (Oh yeah, I went there, Lunchables are in no way a meal, they leave you hungry and wanting to eat an entire extra package.) A key definition of a snack is that it leaves you wanting more snacks. In a perfect world, you would create a play list of snacks, and eat from the time you wake up until you pass out face first in a bowlful of bar peanuts.
Level three snacks: Unleash your inner Emeril. These are the snacks that border on meals. You buy the ingredients, you combine and cook them and Bbam you make the perfect snack. Examples of level three snacks include sandwiches, vegetable platters, sushi, chili, soup not from a can, leftovers that you reheat, pasta, tuna mousse, spreads, dips and most importantly anything that you add melted cheese to. This is my favorite category of snacks, and I will reveal to you the biggest kept secret in the snack world: peanut butter. It never goes bad, it goes well on most fruits and vegetables, it makes great sandwiches, it goes well on crackers, it tastes good with some chips, it goes well with other spreadable delicacies, and most importantly, it’s filling. My apologies to anyone who is allergic to nuts, but peanut butter just plain old rocks.
So there they are, the three main categories of snacks. Pop quiz! Place these snacks into their appropriate categories: cookies, club sandwiches, godiva chocolates. Cookies were a trick question. You should have asked yourself, “Home baked or store purchased? Are they slice and bake, or a gift from a grandmother?” Where the cookies were produced makes all the difference. If you make the club sandwich yourself, it’s a level three snack, and you are ready to be a productive member of society. Making a sandwich proves that you could probably sustain yourself in a “non college” environment. (Note: Most business majors cannot do this). Godiva chocolates were another trick question. Because they are so expensive (the store at the mall charged me 3 dollars for one truffle!) they are definitely not a snack but a delicacy. Save the expensive stuff for Valentine’s Day and special occasions. A true snacker knows that he needs to save his money for other days and other snacks.
Snacking. It’s serious. It’s a way of life. Once you start on a path of eating all the time, you will find that your stomach is always on the search for new flavors, new combinations of old foods, new brands of candy, new spreads to spread on new breads … you get the point. Remember: if it’s not a meal, it’s most likely a snack. And if it’s a snack, eat it.