Moreish Morsels

Moreish Morsels

by Jacqui Gray

On Christmas mornings, when I was young, my brother and I would wake before the sun had properly risen, discover our pillow cases bulging magically at the bottom of our beds, and open our presents excitedly together. While my brother would dive in, tearing the paper off his, I’d open mine more tentatively, taking care with the paper, lingering, pausing between each gift, enjoying knowing there were plenty more to open. I’d always leave one present unopened, to enjoy later. It’s not really that different with snacks. I always like to have one more I can come back to.

Snacks, in my view, can suit covert gluttons like me. As they’re bite sized, I can go back for more, and more, without getting full, prolonging the eating experience. I can also start off small and build up, with all the sweet anticipation that brings. And I can follow up one taste experience with a different one, savoury then sweet, or crunchy then creamy, indulging my gustatory sense with a revolving menu of flavours and textures according to my precise whim. 

I enjoy food, it’s fair to say. As a child, little rituals bound up with snacks punctuated my week. On Saturday mornings, shopping trips with my mother would include her buying me some sweets to bring home. It was something I took for granted. On the one occasion I accompanied my friend on a shopping trip with her mother, and no sweets materialized, it came as a shock. On Sunday afternoons, my father would take my brother and me to a little corner shop near our home and buy some family treats: sweets for us children, along with his favourite bar of rum-and-raisin-flavoured chocolate for himself. Needless to say, I often helped him eat it. At school as a five-year-old, I looked forward to the school tuck shop each morning. There were biscuits and chocolate wagon wheels to crunch on with friends, and little bottles of milk that we drank through straws. And as I grew older, when trips to the seaside and the zoo were highlights of the school year, a central pleasure of the excursion for me was eating my favourite treats on the journey. Once the coach began to transport us on our way, the trip became one long feast of snacks, devoured with my hyper classmates on the velour seats as the countryside sped past. 

When school was over for the year, and the long, languorous summer holidays beckoned, I would stay with my grandparents. My days there were packed with exciting walks in the nearby forest and blissful rides on my scooter in their rural garden, all set against a constant backdrop of special treats to eat. It was spoiling in a way that only grandparents can. Each morning, I would wake and find a treat had been miraculously left under my pillow. A boiled sweet, or maybe a toffee. By the end of my holiday, the treat would have grown into a regular-sized chocolate bar. I’d gobble it down immediately, and then granny would bring me tea and biscuits in bed. How I managed to eat my breakfast, I don’t know, but I did. My favourite ritual was near bedtime. Every evening, just before nine, granny would announce it was supper time and would invite me to look inside her big, walk-in larder and choose something to eat. I remember selecting crisps and cheese, chocolate cake and tiny ring doughnuts with crackly lemon icing. I was in snack heaven. 

Later, as a student at college, I would while away my lunch break with a friend in a tiny café that was housed in a 17th century black-and-white timbered building. I would always choose the same things: a milky coffee and a small chocolate wafer bar. Sitting on a high-backed wooden seat in this warm, ancient space was like being closeted in a calm sanctuary, in a world outside of the busy college day. The familiar, unchanging snack I enjoyed there was a key part of that daily, comforting ritual. 

As an adult, there have been moments over the years when I’ve been more concerned that I’ve run out of snacks than I have been when I’ve run out of basic food items. Many’s the time I’ve made an emergency trip to the grocery store to buy chocolate or cakes when my snack supply has run dry. As time has gone on, I’ve expanded snacks into healthier light meals that, for example, incorporate more fruit and vegetables. But I still want to eat a sweet dessert. Much more enjoyable, I find, is to eat more lightly— graze— and leave some room to enjoy a sweet treat. Now. Later. Or precisely when I’m ready.


Featured in our April 2022 issue, "Snack Time"