Once I had friends over to watch a movie. I made brownies. When the friends finished the brownies, one friend–a new friend–went into my kitchen and looked around. He opened the fridge, he opened the cabinets. “Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of gourmet?” he said.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Then how come you don’t have anything to snack on?”

It was a penetrating question. I prided myself on my huge arsenal of ingredients–I still do: whole nutmeg, vanilla beans, King Arthur flour. There are bags of sugar and bottles of vinegar and fancy olive oils and there’s a whole shelf of spices. I have honey from France and tons and tons of butter.

“But don’t you have anything to snack on?” That’s Craig, a few days ago, echoing the comment from a few years before.

“Well,” I answered honestly. “I like to bake things to have around so I don’t have to buy processed snack food.”

Craig considered this and later, at the store, he purchased something unprocessed: the pistachios you see above.

“What are those for?” I asked.

“Snacking,” he answered.

Snacking? But I only buy things when they’re for a recipe. Who ever heard of snacking on pistachios? Oh wait: half the world snacks on pistachios. So he bought them and put them on the table near my TV and set to picking them apart and eating them. I scoffed at first: what kind of heathen tears at pistachios when he could be nibbling homemade petit fors? I would have no part.

The next day, however, I was there alone and the pistachios called to me. I reached in and pulled the shell away from the nut and popped the nut into my mouth. It was good–it has a nice salty meatiness to it. But what I liked best was the process of pulling the shell apart. This is what snacking’s all about: the movement of the fingers, the repetition of a single act over and over again. Before I knew it was hooked–I’d become a snacker.

And now there’s a new frontier: cheese and crackers. Craig gets hungry while I prepare my big lavish dinners so now he buys cheese and crackers. At first I got mad because he was ruining his appetite but now I share his enthusiasm for that classic combination that serves so many as the perfect thing to snack on while dinner’s getting made. Tonight I showed how transformed I truly was: when I went to the store to buy broccoli and orecchiette for dinner, I also bought fancy crackers and Brie de Meaux–a stinky soft cheese from France. Craig loved it and I did too: while waiting for the water to boil and watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” it was the perfect thing on which to snack.

And so, reader, let’s talk snack: what do you snack on? Highbrow, lowbrow: they all have a place here.

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