by Fern Marshall

Last night I thought about writing this piece before bed, but instead I made myself a mug of decaf tea and a little plate filled with tiny salty triangles of Manchego cheese, crunchy sourdough crackers, and a handful of large white chocolate buttons. I grew up with snacks entwined into my day, midmorning elevenses and afternoon tea. Snacks planned and snacks anticipated. The snack drawer was, still is, at the bottom of an old dark wood cupboard which squeaks as you pulled it out, announcing your intention to the room. 

When I asked my loved ones about their favourite snacks a few days ago they responded quickly. They understood it to be an important question, one to be taken seriously. Chocolate of course, but how to narrow it down? Answers were shared — paprika crisps, orange flavoured dark chocolate, Marmite biscuits, popcorn, cacao, left over pizza, roasted and salted cashews, Cadbury’s caramel chocolate bar, sea salt and balsamic vinegar crisps, handfuls of salted peanuts before dinner. I called my mum to learn more about her choices — her love of chocolate raisins and salted crisps reaching back to her childhood, faithful companions throughout her life. The raisins first discovered in one particular train station vending machine as a teenager and the cheaper, broken crisps bought from a small local shop as a child, sold with a damp twist of salt. 

I sift through my memories. A tarnished green biscuit tin from my childhood full of digestives or malted milks to be dipped in a mug of tea. Viennese whirls eaten with my grandfather, Popsy, fingers and lips covered with powdered sugar and crumbs. A small brown paper bag filled with aniseed balls, bought by my dad on a long grey day far from home. A bright pink iced doughnut from a small bakery in a quiet town near Amsterdam, the perfect texture and sweetness. In Venice, small round biscuits filled with hazelnut cream for breakfast in the rented apartment, heat already creeping in through the heavy wooden shutters. The tiny bags of sour cream and onion pretzels they used to hand out for free on flights between the UK and Ireland. A soft peanut butter sandwich with the crusts cut off, a gentle and surprising gesture from a mostly uncaring man. A bag of hot golden fries on the way back from an evening swim in the summer sea, light fading, salty fingers on the steering wheel. 

Now more than ever, I try to pay attention to the small pleasures of life. I have a snack shelf, of course. There are salted caramel toffees, a box of almond chocolate cookie sticks, biscuits topped with pink mallow & raspberry flavour jam, sprinkled with coconut – each treat the opportunity for a moment of joy. As I type this there is a Creme Egg beside me, ready to be devoured. When things feel hopeless or overwhelming, I think about the next delicious treat in my future and things feel a little brighter.


Featured in our April 2022 issue, "Snack Time"