Snacking

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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.

73 comments

  1. Kozy Shack Chocolate Pudding is the only snack food I buy.

    If I’m out of that and need something, I’ll nibble on the 40lb bag of Valrhona Caraibe 63% chocolate disks I bought in France.

  2. nuts, all sort of nuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, roasted fava beans, toasted green peas ( try the japanese version, very spicy ), munchies ( little pieces of spicy rice or wheat nibbles) . There are a lot of japanese rice snacks, all of them delicious. Enter any middle eastern/japanese deli, they’ll advise you.

    Also spicy mini crackers, and vegetable sticks, especially crunchy carrots sticks. A Tahini/hummous dip for the carrots is welcome. But not cheese, because cheeese is considered heavy food (proteins) and no hostess wants her guests to get over-stuffed before a good dinner/lunch. Cheese is served ( not so much in Israel, but I do) after the meal, of course in non-kosher homes like mine.

    When hosting more people, some herring whith the crackers is very nice.

    But all the above, is for young and slim people like you. At my “young” age, one avoids snacks , they’re killing our artheries!! Bon Appetit and stay young and happy!!

    Happy Hannuka!

  3. Hello, I’ve been a silent reader but this post takes me back. In Singapore/Malaysia, sometimes we fry huge batches of Keropok (fish or prawn crackers), store them in big tupperwares and bring them out when watching tv. Not healthy but the savoury crunch crunch crunch is oh so satisfying!

  4. Popcorn, dry roasted peanuts, cheese and crackers…if it’s a special occasion, I may have crudities with dip or a homemade cheeseball. Just simple stuff. I’m a foodie, but I don’t hang out with fancy folks (they like their potato chips as much as anybody).

    Now, I’m giving a Christmas gift to a friend (who does like the occasional gourmet meal) of a wedge of brie with some homemade pomegranate-pepper preserves to put over it. There’s a snack!

  5. My current favorite is a banana slathered with Nutella. Not very glamorous, but it sure hits the spot when I’m craving chocolate. And because the banana is fruit, it’s good for me, too :)

  6. Where to start? I guess most of the time it would be chocolate bonbons from Jacques Torres, Kee’s Chocolates or if my budget may allow, La Maison du Chocolat; or just Guanaja chocolate bars from Valrhona that I get from Zabars. On the savory side, toasted baguette slices with any type of soft or semi-soft cheese. If I’m really lazy, I just get a spoon and a jar of Nutella and just lick away.

  7. Cheese and bread, always! Sometimes, I add cherry tomatoes. I actually posted an entry on my blog on Brie de Meaux yesterday.

  8. I’m a Pittsburgh girl and, consequently, a huge fan of the Strip District. The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company has this Italian Tuna Salad (no mayo: just olive oil, romano cheese, salt, and pepper) that tastes fantastic on carrots, celery, red peppers, any crunchy vegetable. It’s like a little crudite.

  9. ditto on torie’s comment about bananas and nutella.

    dried fruit (mangos especially)

    cheetoes or anything poofy and synthetically cheesy.

  10. i, too am a silent reader, but i couldn’t resist this post. I slice up pitas into wedges, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with sea salt and toast them in the oven until they turn into chips. Then, depending on my mood, i toss them with sweet or savory seasonings(chili and cocoa powder, pepper and pecorino romano, garlic salt and parmeggiano reggiano, cinnamon and sugar, whatever i fancy). it’s delightful!

  11. I guess my gourmet sensibilities run more to the mundane. A nice glass of milk and some cookies makes the perfect snack for me. I know, my wife hates me for the fact I can eat what ever I want and not gain a pound. (Now where’s that gallon of ice cream?)

  12. Before my cholesterol hit the 200 mark, I’d make popcorn on the stove, drenched in browned butter but these days I sprinkle sesame seeds on cucumber slices. Sigh, I miss those butter days.

  13. Guilty pleasure: for all my highbrow avoidance of processed foods, I love getting a 1lb bag of pretzel Combos and leaving it open in the fridge. Cold, stale Combos are my snacking shame and I LOVE THEM.

  14. Ohhh, I’m guilty of that as well- so much good food around, and never any snacks! I usually have a few squares of chocolate, and a few months ago went nuts and filled the freezer with every available flavor of Ben & Jerry’s… now we’ve been snacking on slices of quezo de bola or boozy fruitcake… mmm… fruitcake…

  15. dry cereal! a handful of chex or puffins usually does the trick. if i’m feeling really snazzy, ill pour some soy milk into a bowl with my cereal. but, grabbing it out of the box eliminates any dish-doing!

  16. Another usual lurker. I enjoy a simple red lentil dip with pita chips or crackers as a pre-dinner snack. Also nuts or different marinated olives.

  17. I love sliced pears with really thin slices of holland gouda. Or lays potato chips. Depends on the energy I have or the company.

  18. I am a consummate snacker! I would rather snack than eat a full meal anyday. Cheese, crackers, dry salami, prosciutto, olives, bruschetta, you name it, I LOVE IT. I also love any type of nut imaginable, especially the thai chili lime cashews from Trader Joe’s. They are amazing!

  19. Healthy snacking involves golden delicious apples (wedge cut) with some sharp cheddar cheese.

    Unhealthy snacking always involves chocolate of any type, preferably ice cream – especially Dove Bars – or french vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup or hot fudge.

    Hooray for Craig getting you to snack, AG!

  20. Smoked almonds, Japanese cracker snacks (peas, or this can of Hapi Mixed stuff that is so yummy), and the ever present veggies and hummus. Mmm, hummus. If I was in the mood, I’d make guacamole and dip veggies in that…. I love Tostitos Twist of Lime chips too… Mmm. If I weren’t allergic, probably peanut butter on the veggies when I ran out of the other stuff.

  21. I always find myself in the same situation. If I’m not prepared and my friends come over a lot of the time I have no snacks just sitting in the cupboard. I could whip up a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread…if they wanted to wait. But they never do. So we normally end up with extra sharp cheddar and apples, chocolate broken off of the 1 lb in the freezer, or chunks of parmegiano reggiano.

  22. My all time favorite thing to snack on is a hot Pan de Sal (a slightly sweet filipino dinner roll) dipped in condensed milk and washed down with some coffee or if I’m not lazy espresso. YUM!

  23. Right now, since it’s the holidays, I have homemade shortbread and clementines. Snacking on those is most of my food intake this month.

  24. I used to never have stuff to snack on either. I figured it would ruin my appetite. Occasionally I would have some chips and salsa but not much else. Now that I am married my wife has an arsenal of chips, dip mixes, crackers, cheese, nuts, cookies, and snack mixes. It is great if people stop over or if she is subjected to a 2 hour wait while I prepare dinner. One thing I love is to take blanched almonds and sautee them with some olive oil until they are light brown, drain them on a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt and some smoked paprika. I got the recipe from The New Spanich Table Cookbook.

  25. Roasted chickpeas. Open a can of chickpeas, drain and drizzle with olive oil, S&P. Put on a sheet pan and into a hot oven (425 or so) until they turn golden brown, shaking the pan a few times during the process for even browning. You can also add paprika or cajun seasoning to spice it up a bit. They are delicious!

  26. Tortilla chips. From a bag if I’m lazy, or I whack tortillas into sixths, spray them with oil and dust them with salty pepper (or the blackening seasoning I got last night! YAY!) and toss under the broiler for a while.

    I have also been known to bake an entire loaf of yeast bread for snacking purposes. Because I am INSANE! I think pretzels will now be in this category. See above re: INSANE!

  27. I try to snack on fruit…pears and craisins are my fave. However, I do enjoy some popcorn, and because I am crazy, I put the chicago steak seasoning from penzy’s over it.

    Hey AG: did they ever air the Iron Chef ep that you got to see? I was waiting for the second half of the story so that you could actually comment on who was ‘playing’ and doing and such.

  28. I make do with low-fat microwave popcorn, but it makes me very happy. I also like apples spread with peanut butter and pears spread with Laughing Cow cheese spread (Yes, I’m dieting, why do you ask?) I also love, but only purchase on special occasions, olive oil potato chips with rosemary.

    Alas, I cannot keep pistachios in the house for snacking purposes because I will eat the entire bag in one sitting, which qualifies as a meal, if not an eating disorder.

    Snack on!

  29. *tap tap* hello? Is this thing on? Okay…

    My name is Kevin, and I am a snack-o-holic.

    I totally agree with Gwen who said she can skip meals and just snack her way to happiness. Not only am I a snack-o-holic, but I’m a snack-o-holic with A.D.D., meaning that I can’t stay focused on one snack for too long before another comes along and seduces me. My current obsessions can both be found in the isles of Trader Joes–chili mango slices and wasabi peas (not at the same time though). Past obsessions include both fresh and dried fruit of most any kind, handfuls of dry cereal, pretzels, peanut butter (a spoonful out of the jar) and small, homeless kittens (just wanting to see if anyone is actually reading this far).

  30. also a lurker :-) i love to snack on chocolate chips that i wedge into the little holes in pretzel twists. they fit right in and it’s like a game to see if they won’t fall out before making it to your mouth. granted, not the most difficult game out there, but the chocolate chip/pretzel combination is a great reward.

    and kevin, homeless kittens? ew.

  31. Mmmmm… snacks… I love to snack on olives (I like having the pit to play with in my mouth as a suck every little bit of meat off of the pit)… chips and guacamole… anything in a plastic bag from Trader Joes (especially the chili and lime peanuts).

  32. I tend to snack on fruit and little squares of dark chocolate, or chocolate covered nuts.

    In Israel snacking on nuts is very popular. They’re called “pitzuhim,” and a wide variety of roasted, salted, and spiced nuts and seeds are typically available at any local kiosk. You can tell there’s just been a soccer match at a park by the pile of sunflower seed shells on the ground.

  33. My snack of choice is any type of almond – the honey roasted (esp. the ones from Fairway) or my current favorite tamari (from Trader Joe’s). When I can’t help myself, I sometimes have a bag of salt and vinegar chips – they’re the best!

  34. 1. Honeycrisp Apples- If you have not tried this hybrid, you MUST! They are just sweet enough, oh so juicy and that Crispy-Crunch sound you get when biting into one is such beautiful music to the ears. They are my new addiction. I just want to roll around in the bin of them at the grocery store!

    2. Boursin cheese- on assorted crudites, on cornbread crackers or just straight out of the box, this is my other addiction. It makes a fantastic dip when mixed with smoked tomato puree and served with toasted mini bagel chips. I also use it to make Boursin and Green Onion Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes.

    3. Smoked Gouda- What can I say? I LOVE cheese!

    4. Dark Chocolate- 70% Cacao or higher. Right now I’m working my way through a box of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Twilight Delight.

    5. Bosc Pears- sliced up and eaten along with some gouda.

    6. Sweet Spicy Chili Doritos- The “junkiest” of my junk food. These are a limited edition and they’re fantastic!

  35. Thinly sliced, toasted sourdough baguette, topped with red/purple onion sauteed in butter, with gorgonzola cheese (or bleu cheese – but we prefer the gorgonzola). That’s our favorite snacky-snack before dinner.

    For movie watching we make old fashioned popped corn – in a big kettle on the stove – mix it up with salt and a very teensy bit of butter – lots of napkins are needed when sitting down at movie time.

    Sliced gouda, sliced aged cheddar (white sharp vermont cheddar is my fave, but my dude prefers mild to medium orange cheddar) with any good salty cracker.

    In the summer we snack on slices of cucumber dipped in hummus (garlicky, of course) – drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika – pita triangles, kalamata olives, thin slices of purple onion, feta cheese – slices off a nice square of feta are better than crumbles.

  36. Ooooh Boursin. I love that stuff in an unnatural way. I also enjoy:

    various dry cereals

    ritz crackers with peanut butter

    chips and salsa (how I pine for Pappasito’s)

    almost anything chocolate

    Are you seeing the carb trend here?

  37. I knew my husband was the guy for me when he showed up at my family’s christmas gathering with a 5 pound bag of bazzini’s pistachios.

  38. oooooooh baby this is the post for me!

    nuts of any kind

    good gouda

    stilton and pink lady apples

    graham crackers with whipped cream cheese

    pink grapfruit with salt

    hot & spicy lays bbq chips

    I also looooooove cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices

  39. I try not to snack mindlessly. I find I don’t enjoy the food very much, and it’d unhealthy. But mindful snacking, esp. in the late afternoon (teatime) makes me so happy, and I don’t know why.

    So ok, first there’s usually tea. Or champagne.

    Then there’s either

    -fruit and toasted fruit bread with blue cheese and honey and currant jam

    -toasted pita with sauce (romesco or eggplant)

    -toast with radish butter and orange slices

    -leftover cake

    -Amander Hesser’s “PBJ” – just one and oh.my.god.

    As you can see I am lost without my afternoon carbs, but I usually try to sneak in at least one serving of fruits or vegetables too.

  40. Careful AG, the fact that you don’t snack probably explains why you can eat all those rich meals and still be thin.

  41. Pickles, pickles and more pickles. Olives, ditto. Anything salty. Oh, pretzel thins and orange french dressing.. don’t know why, but it tastes so good.

    No kittens. Too much prep work/

  42. I’m diabetic so almost any snack requires insulin and I don’t like to do insulin between meals. But I did find something I can snack on that satisfies without need for insulin…salted roasted shelled sunflower seeds. By the spoonful. Yum.

  43. Mmmmm . . . Salt & Vinegar Kettle Chips are the way to go – especially after a case of “the Mondays”. Crispy and tangy and just crunchy enough to work off any leftover aggression.

    My other favorite is a smooth Gouda cheese with a sweet/tart Wisconsin McIntosh apple. Wisconsin ONLY, please. The sugar crystals are much finer than any other variety of McIntosh – I swear I can tell them apart in a blind taste test.

  44. When I feel like salt:

    A plate of pickles, olives, pepperoncini peppers, feta cheese, and crackers.

    When I feel like being bad:

    Lay’s classic potato chips

    When I feel like being healthy:

    McIntosh apples or clementines

  45. I definitely prefer salty snacks. When I’m feeling motivated, I’ll making popcorn on the stove with rosemary, black pepper and sea salt, but when I’m not I just reach my hand into whatever big bag of nuts I happen to have on hand.

    When I do crave sweet things I generally go for fruit, but a small square of dark chocolate is always a nice treat :)

  46. Good post and comments! I like pistachos (especially at holiday time) and whole almonds. But my fav are the appetizer plates that I do whenever someone comes over for a glass of wine. People think I’m a brillant cook when all I do is take a plate and artfully arrange: thinly sliced apples and pears, a couple of cheeses (smoked gouda and a soft goat are favs), and some interesting crackers – preferably of the peppery/salty/seedy variety. Then sprinkle on some nuts. It’s pretty and gives people a mini-smorgasboard of nibbling delights while they’re sipping. And you don’t have to even cook.

    If it’s just the hub and I, I often do just one cheese selection and crackers on a plate – pre-dinner. By new favorite cracker/junk fook I just discovered are Olive Oil and Cracked Pepper Triscuits. They’re surprisingly good!

    When I’m feeling extra ambitious, I buy some butterflied shrimp and quick saute it in a pan with olive oil. Then give it a sprinkling with a simple but spicy seasoning like Old Bay. People think I’m gourmet and I really did almost nothing. It keeps the crowds happy while you cook.

  47. For snacking I love those honey sesame sticks from Whole Foods, they are addictive. Laughing Cow cheese on triscuits or really any kind of cheese on any kind of carb are good to me. I also love cucumber slices with lots of lemon, some salt and red chili pepper.

    I second the Iron Chef question from above, I was wondering about that the other day.

  48. if possible i like to eat a small meal type snack like a piece of rotisserie chicken w/hot sauce. definitely something i can eat while standing up. lately though i’ve been snacking on juicy satsumas, pocket coffee and chips & salsa. if i’m having guests though i’ll usually have an hor d’oeuvre or appetizer.

  49. God help me, I am addicted to the Dark Chocolate M&M’s. I just bought some at Target on my lunch break. So wrong, yet so right.

  50. Pretzel crisps and a pecan cheddar cheesespread from a local “supper club” that they carry at my specialty market.

    My culinary “masterpieces” are all appetizers, so sometimes I’ll whip up something random with frozen puff pastry–brie, toasted nuts, apricot or peach preserves. Yum.

  51. I keep unsalted roasted almonds around to snack on. I love pickles. Often I try to make a dip or spread of some sort, like homemade humus or crushed white beans, which I have with these really good crackerthins that come form Australia.

  52. We do love a good midnight snack at our house. Last night I made guacamole (avocados, garlic, lime juice, serrano, and salt–only ,please), but Whole Foods has an incredibly serviceable guac protected from browning by a layer of salsa on top. My husband and I also like to split a toasted pb&j.

    But, sometimes only chocolate will do. In which case, we adore Vosges’ Barcelona bar (smoked almonds and sea salt) and almost any Ritter Sport bar (my favorite is dark chocolate with marzipan).

    Tonight I plan to try Joyce’s cold shot of vodka and a pickle, which may be just the spoonful of medicine that writing holiday cards requires!

  53. Geez, I wasn’t hungry until I read these commments (and yes, I agree, vodka and a pickle sound like a perfect Christmas snack to me)…I’m proud to admit snacking on the majority of the foods mentioned, but am surprised no one mentioned one of my faves: canned smoked oysters and King Oscar sardines, both on the cracker of your choice. And thanks for the reminder about taramosalata, have some of that in the fridge right now. gotta go.

  54. I don’t know when I started doing this, perhaps when I was catering full time, but I tend to snack standing up and when I am in the middle of doing something else. The best is a loaf of bread, cheese, some mustard and a knife.

  55. The funny thing is that I had *just* finished snacking on some pistacchios and then clicked through to this post. Almonds are also frequent occupants of my snack drawer.

    Cheese and crackers also reside fairly regularly in our house; we’re especially fond of a nice sharp cheddar. But the best snacking is the stuff that’s left over from a dinner party, still on the serving platter, gone lukewarm. Like the crusty edges of a paella. Mmm.

  56. Olives, almonds, PISTACHIOS in the shell, and cheese!

    And now that it’s the holidays, cookies from co-workers, too!

  57. I have the same problem: the more I cook, the less I have to eat. I never have anything to snack on other than cheese and applesauce.

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