Snack Crisis

I was at the store, the other day, when I found myself in the snack aisle. I probably shouldn’t say, I found myself. In point of fact I never lost myself. I was always right here, and the other day, ‘here’ just happened to be the snack aisle. Actually, I hasten to add, the only thing I have ever lost in the snack aisle, of the grocery store is money, so I shouldn’t need to find anything there, except for all of that cash.

Yes, I certainly have lost money in the snack aisle. I simply have to enter that paradise of nuts, chocolates, and chips, and money just seems to disappear. Of course we all know, Snack Foods are God’s way of telling us, Man was not meant to live forever. Even so, I feel I am in this for the long haul, so I try to avoid it. The sad thing is, I can’t.

The marketing gods on Mount Olympus, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount A Horse, or even Sermon on the Mount, wherever they are, have decreed, “No Man Shall Exit A Shop Without First Going Through The Snack Aisle.” It’s a law of nature, handed down since the beginning of time when the first cave dwellers had to walk past raspberry bushes while bringing home mammoth burgers. They paid in thorn pricks and blood, we pay in money. Thank heaven for progress.

Here’s another interesting little tidbit, in our world of mass convenience where the ultimate powers have handed down such laws, we have to thank retailers. Since we are required to go through a snack aisle, retailers have stepped up, and put snack aisles all over the store. Every end cap has got snacks. Every Checkout Lane has been filled with unhealthy yet tasty nibbles. Boy, when they comply, they get it right. I don’t know what the penalty for not going past snack food is, but it must be serious. So, a great big ‘Thank You’ goes out to the army of women and men who ensure all of us are getting enough salt, sugar, and fats. Because of you, we never have to feel the wrath of the marketing gods.

Some of you may be crying out, “This country is in crisis. Too many people are eating way too many unhealthy things.”  These heretics would have us ignore the commandments and remove snack aisles forever. “We eat too much fat, and salt,” they scream. I say, to those disbelievers, “That is why God created marshmallows!” Read the label, marshmallows have zero fat, and no salt to boot. They’re like puffy diet food which actually tastes good. Also look at the back of a can of nuts, there’s just oodles of protein. So sit down all you anti-snackers, and chew your tree bark quietly.

While on the subject, sort of, I have to ask the great ones, or anyone who happens to walk past, “Why do they insist on mixing things?” You’ve all seen this, there’s mixed nuts, trail mix, bridge mix (which is trail mix dipped in chocolate), and the ever popular Chex Mix. Even Frito Lay has jumped on the bandwagon and now puts two flavors of Doritos in one bag. Those sages of salt would have us believe, mixing snacks enhances the flavor and experience. But it doesn’t!! Everybody just re-sorts everything.

Take a can of mixed nuts, it doesn’t matter if you do this by yourself or in a group, and put them close by and wait. Of course the can will slowly empty, but watch how it empties. The cashews will go first, followed by the almonds and walnuts, then the Brazil nuts and other less common offerings, until you are left with half a can of peanuts. Just as this happens, everyone in the room will suddenly no longer be hungry. The strange thing is if you put a can of peanuts in front of the very same group, after a short while, the can will go completely empty. What is this phenomenon with peanuts? They’re fine by themselves, but inedible in the presence of other nuts.

No one teaches us this genetic behavior, but I can tell you we have it from a very early age. From the moment we open our very first bag of M&M’s, we are hooked. There is absolutely no difference between red, yellow, and brown candies, yet virtually every bag is opened dumped on a flat surface and sorted. I admit, my research has yielded a strange correlation between the green ones and a powerful attraction to the opposite sex, but this has not been scientifically proven, and I assure you, chemically they are exactly the same as the other colors.

They worst item in this random sorting behavior is a bag of ‘Bridge Mix.’ All the raisins, cashews, peanuts, and other sundry things are coated in a thick layer of chocolate. It becomes much more difficult to tell peanuts from almonds when everything looks like shiny dark brown balls in varying sizes. Still though, we try. Years ago, I took a bag to a quiet study group, opened it, and set it in the middle of the table. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. Instead of hearing the sounds of pages turning, and whispered questions seeking clarification on the instructions, the group got amazingly off topic. Suddenly all I heard was reasonably quiet statements like; “Crap, I thought it was an almond,” or “I think these are the raisins,” an occasional “Yum, I got a cashew,” and the disappointed “That was just a ball of chocolate, no nut.” They all were sorting the mix, and because it was a more difficult than just by color, as in the case of M&M’s, the task was consuming their brains.

No, I do not care for mixed-up snacks. You can call me an elitist if you want to, but I prefer a single thing in the can or bag when I choose to add to my waistline. However, I must admit, this mixing craze has brought my family closer together. Every Saturday night, we all gather around the old jigsaw puzzle table, and sort a bag, or two, of Chex Mix, before we watch TV for the night.

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