Reading is, generally speaking, a cozy act. It’s an activity of immersion, in which the outside world falls away while we are deep in the sea of story. Some of my happiest childhood memories include the perfect pairing of a book and a snack, and uninterrupted hours in which to enjoy them. My grandparents lived on a lake in Indiana—you can hardly NOT live on a lake in Indiana; there are about 1,700 of them—and I used to take a book, a glass of lemonade or iced tea, and cold celery stalks with peanut butter or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out to their little people-powered pedal boat and paddle my way over to the tiny lake next to ours where no power boats were allowed, and spend hours pedaling around the lake, reading in the sunshine.
It was bliss. But while peanut butter makes for a sustaining reading meal, it was not my absolute favorite reading snack. That was…
…an enormous jawbreaker candy ball! This is something we would get if we were very good when we went out to eat at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. Phoenix, Arizona kids like us usually went to Farrell’s, if we were lucky, a few times a year for someone’s birthday.
At the end of your meal, the wait staff would race a giant sundae—decked out with translucent plastic circus animals perched on mounds of ice cream—through the restaurant on a shoulder-high stretcher to deliver it to the birthday table, a special siren wailing in the background all the while. It was too loud. It was excessive. It was crazy exciting.
Afterward, if you hadn’t annoyed your parents too much, you’d get to go to the CANDY STORE right in the restaurant. My sister usually chose red licorice, paper dots, or Zots, but I headed right to the bin with the treat that lasted the longest:
It was a jawbreaker the size of a baseball. This was the absolute perfect reading snack, since the licking area was far enough from your holding hand that you never got sticky fingers and ruined your pages, and it lasted for.ev.er. It was also entertaining, since the colors changed through the ball.
Weeks of licking that jawbreaker finally led to potential breakage of—not your jaw, but the jawbreaker itself. Crunching through those final shards was a grand and challenging reward, and ideally happened during a particularly exciting climactic scene in the book.
My adult tongue breaks out in canker sores just thinking about prolonged exposure to that much concentrated sugar, but as a kid, I was impervious.
I was also picky about my reading snacks. I didn’t like anything that got my fingers messy, because, though I secretly tore out page corners and nibbled on them when I really loved a book, I also wanted to keep my books nice. (I realize this is a contradiction.)
Grapes were a good reading snack, and frozen grapes even better. I tried pomegranates because of the endlessness of the seeds, but they were messy and required two hands. Cherries were good, but you had to watch out not to stain pages. Carrots were satisfyingly crunchy, but boring. Buttered toast—or hot peanut butter toast!—was fantastic, but not long-lasting.
For me, it was always about the jawbreaker.
Those of you whose inner chubby child hollers out, “heck, yes!” to eating while reading, what were YOUR favorite treats?
P.S. I can’t remember ever snacking while reading nonfiction, probably because it’s easy to lose your appetite when reading about the horrors of history. But if I had read mountain-climbing books back then, there would have been gorp and M&Ms.
P.P.S. I had to laugh when I logged in to write this post and saw that Megan’s ShelfTalker post last Friday was about the threat of characters being eaten in children’s books. There must be something in the air about food and books! Or perhaps it’s winter and we’re just hungry.