Monday, April 7, 2008

Melia’s Top 5 “Crack-Snacks”

Allow me to introduce you to the top five snacks over which I have no self-control. Like a hungry golden retriever left unattended in the pantry, I will devour every delicious morsel and leave no trace. Even if I attempt to behave like a civilized person—eating one serving, closing the package, putting it away, and leaving the room—I cannot resist the sweet siren-call of the crack-snacks. I will inevitably return to open the package and repeat the process several times, truly believing that each time will be the last. I am convinced that each of these snacks, like Kentucky Fried Chicken according to Mike Myers’ Stuart MacKenzie, contains "an addictive chemical that makes you crave it fortnightly."

5) Trader Joe's Tomato & Basil Hummus Dip. I raise eyebrows in the checkout line when I stack up three or four containers of this full-bodied hummus with a nose of garlic. I cannot help but eat a 7 oz. container in one sitting, normally paired with Trader Joe’s Salted Potato Puffs (see #3) or toasted tortillas. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to open a fresh container of this hummus, scoop the excess off the lid with a single chip, and pop it whole into my mouth.

4) Trader Joe's Banana Crisps. When these first hit the market a couple of years ago, the nutrition facts read, "Total Fat: 1g." Unlike banana chips, these had apparently not been fried but tasted almost exactly like potato chips, only "lightly sweet." I considered the crisps a miracle food, the most perfect way to satisfy both my cravings and my recommended daily serving of fruit. Because the banana crisps came in limited supply and flew off the shelves, I would reserve eight bags at a time(yes, actually reserve them in advance) and eat approximately one bag per day. Everything went swimmingly until I popped open Bag 1 of 8 and noticed new sticker on the front: "Total Fat: 8g per serving." I did a double take. In somewhat of a panic, I returned to Trader Joe's to ask an employee about what had to be a mistake. "The original bags were mislabeled," she said. "The crisps are fried, and they do have 8 grams of fat." I thought about how many crisps I'd consumed over the past months. Suddenly, it became clear why I'd begun to develop a bit of a "banana belly." This was the first time I had ever considered filing a lawsuit. Still in shock, I returned the 8 bags of crisps and have grieved for the loss of the perfect snack ever since.

3) Trader Joe’s Salted Popped Potato Chips. At 4 grams of fat per 22 chips, these are almost as perfect a snack as I believed the banana crisps to be. (If 4 grams is also a misprint, I will cry.) Munching on these chips is like eating air. Salty, starchy, delightfully crunchy air.

2) Lundberg Sesame & Seaweed Rice Chips. Like kettle corn, they are unexpectedly sweet, with a light and lovely seasoned crunch. Made of brown rice, they are incredibly healthy, especially when all six servings in the bag are consumed in one sitting, after midnight. I'm convinced that this is a best practice in nutrition, on par with a juice fast.

1) Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate-Covered Pretzels. I am powerless against the compulsion to break into the bag in the Trader Joe's parking l
ot. My recent driving companion told me, "As soon as you opened the bag, I wasn't even in that car anymore. It was just you and the pretzels." Now, if you’ll please excuse us, the chocolate pretzels and I need another moment alone…

Let us acknowledge the Creator of 4/5 of the preceding snacks.

If you don’t recognize Trader Joe’s as the king of snacks, I will fight you. Please take a moment of silence for people in parts of the country who suffer through life without a Trader Joe’s.

Crack-Snacks Honorable Mention:

Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate with a delicate crunch. I discovered this chocolate at a Rainbow Grocery sample table last month. Each time the sample man turned his back, I swept by and swiped another square. I fancy myself a chocolate connoisseur, having had a college roommate whose Belgian grandmother shipped her a steady supply of Cote D’or mignonettes. This Equal Exchange organic mint chocolate stands out from the rest, 67% cacao with a subtle crisp, like Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. When I learned that small-scale Latin American farmer cooperatives produce the chocolate, I decided that it was my activist duty to buy enough to keep them in business. (Oh, the sacrifices I make in the name of social justice.) Apparently other customers made the same vow, as the chocolate tragically went out of stock after my first heavenly taste. I am overjoyed to report that tonight, after several employees combed the aisles to find it, the mint chocolate and I had a blissful reunion.