The Snack Issue …

The Snack Issue …

So I was browsing around this morning and came across A Year of Inconvenience, a blog written by a woman who manages a food co-op and yet, who after watching Julie & Julia, and reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, decided to see if she could spend a year avoiding the central aisles of her own store, the place where the “convenience” foods reside.

Like a lot of these “project blogs” I would probably quibble with some of her definitions of “convenience foods.” As far as I’m concerned, canned tomatoes, canned beans, pasta, and reasonably plain crackers (I’m a big fan of the Stoned Wheat Thin) are staples. And I’m not really her target audience — I rarely shop the middle aisles, and when I do I’m in there for staples like flour or rice or pasta or beans, or Asian condiments. I don’t buy mixes, or “simmer sauces” — I don’t even like spaghetti sauce in a jar because it tastes too gloppy to me. I just don’t think about cooking that way, in part because I like my own food better than most prepared stuff, and I’m cheap — the pre-packaged stuff seems so expensive most of the time for what you get. But this is all ground we’ve been over time and time again.

What struck me reading A Year of Inconvenience is how ubiquitous “snacks” have become in our society. One of her concerns is replacing the snack foods — and to her credit, she goes ahead and makes hard pretzels!

I was raised by parents who were deeply opposed to snacks. We got three squares a day, and in Junior High and High School a very modest after-school nosh, but the concept of something like a “snack drawer” or “snack closet” in our house was unthinkable. Even after-school snacks were something like a toasted bagel with cheese, or homemade cookies (an ongoing source of war between Patrick and the not-yet-beloved Stepmother in junior high — she believed in rationing, he’d sneak them from the bottom of the tin). We never had chips, or store cookies, or packages of stuff in the house, just as we weren’t allowed to drink pop as kids. My parents were so pro-milk/anti-pop that even at the horse shows my mother ran when we were little, the catering guy, the legendary Mr. Pasquesi, kept those little cartons of milk in his ice chest for my brother and I, and wouldn’t sell us pop.

So the explosion of snack foods is something I’ve never really paid any attention to, and since I don’t have kids, I’ve been spared the tyranny of snack duty for school teams and activities. I still don’t fundamentally understand snacking. We eat dinner really late around here, so sometimes I’ll have some olives, or cheese and crackers around five (it’s a long time until our 9pm-ish dinner time), but the appeal/lure/siren song of snack products is something that’s thankfully lost on me.

The struggle with weight is one I’m not unfamiliar with, but it seems that this idea that we need to have food at our fingertips at every moment of the day (like the idea, pushed by the bottled water people that if we’re not clutching a beverage at all times, we’ll perish of thirst), is one of the reasons our population is growing larger and larger and larger. And perhaps, as we start weaning ourselves from packaged food in general — the frozen dinners, the “mixes” the sauces in jars, the horrible pre-cooked meals in the meat case (really? you want a pot roast cooked in a factory somewhere?), the snack issue will begin to recede as well. Once you start seeing food in boxes and bags as odd, and full of weird ingredients and too much salt, then “snacks” start to look weird too. I don’t know, if you need a “snack” make some popcorn — on the stove, in a pan, with a little oil. It’s really good.

7 thoughts on “The Snack Issue …

  1. I wonder if the explosion in snack foods parallels the decline in family dinners. It’d be an interesting study for someone.

    I have 2 kids, ages 8 and almost-6, and you would be so surprised how their blood-sugar levels affect their behavior. They have to eat every 2-3 hours if I am to remain sane. Even if it’s just a piece of cheese. I never leave the house without a Nalgene bottle of water and some kind of snack, raisins-and-peanuts or a granola bar or some cookies or a banana. My husband is on a low-salt diet so I never buy anything from the snack aisle — never mind the HFCS, it’s the salt we can’t handle…

    BTW both my kids are slightly underweight. So it’s not the snacking, IMHO, it’s the quality of the snacks.

  2. What are you doing about the BPA in canned tomatoes? I haven’t figured out what to do about that yet, and would really like to hear your thoughts.

  3. I’m totally with you on not eating the pre-prepared junk food snacks (and am thankful that my parents too kept that to a minimum in my childhood). The concept of snacking though is a good one – many people do better eating small frequent meals than eating 3 larger meals. Snacks can be real food too.

    & yea, I don’t keep up with the latest and greatest pre-prepared stuff, so it’s always shocking to me to encounter it. I’m always left puzzled that people really eat that stuff.

  4. Um, I guess I’m ignoring the BPA in canned tomatoes at the moment — again, one of those cases where without little kids, sort of fell off my radar. A quick google search says the only way to avoid BPA in tomatoes is to switch to jars. Looks like I’m going to just have to can a lot more tomatoes myself this year I guess — I have seedlings for a lot of romas. Sigh. Luckily, I only go through a couple of cans a month of tomatoes …
    As for snacking, it’s just one of those things I don’t understand. I get it with little kids — you’ve got to have a cheese stick or something in your pocket to prevent meltdowns, but these adults who graze all day long, or people who say they couldn’t work at home because they’d just eat all day — I just fundamentally don’t get it.

  5. What I don’t get is the “I feel sad today, I need chocolate.” The whole idea of “forbidden” food providing comfort is alien to me. —- I work at home and I never eat. Too much hassle. If there’s no leftovers in the fridge, I won’t cook just for myself. I’m amazed at how well you cook for yourself, Charlotte.

  6. Well, I think a lot of it has to do with how “busy” people are these days. Instead of fixing a breakfast, lunch or dinner, sometimes these are had “on the go.” Meals …sit down meals for some families are rare. Suddenly snacks become indistiguishable with meals.
    I’m old school. I have 2 teens, and though I work, I turn out 2 – 3 squares a day. I have snacks, but not a lot of them. There’s fruit, leftovers, whatever. I just don’t have the money to buy a lot of premade foods.

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