The power of snacks

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - By Me­gan John­son Twit­ter: @right­meg

If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s the power of snacks. Whether we’re set­ting out on an eight-hour car ride or just head­ing to the gro­cery store, you’re likely to find an as­sort­ment of half-crushed gra­nola bars, pep­per­mints and fruit snacks on my per­son at all times. For my­self, you know — not my tod­dler. His stash is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal.

I’m pretty mil­i­tant about this, es­pe­cially while preg­nant. There are times the nau­sea hits so swiftly that a Fiber One bar is my only sav­ior. When I need to eat? I need to eat. It’s not an is­sue of be­ing bratty or high main­te­nance; I mean, ev­ery­one knows not to mess with a preg­nant lady’s meals. Un­less you’re pre­pared to stop for a milk­shake pronto.

At 17 weeks preg­nant, I feel like my en­tire day re­volves around food. Where to find it, when to eat it, which op­tions are health­i­est, what I’m go­ing to do if I fin­ish this bag of potato chips be­fore I ac­tu­ally fin­ish my ride home . . . you know: the usual.

Com­ing into the of­fice each morn­ing, I look like I’ve packed for a weeks-long sum­mit up Mount Ever­est. My lunch bag — more of a duf­fel, re­ally — over­flows with string cheese, gra­nola bars, yo­gurt and left­overs. Last week I had a large con­tainer of chili for break­fast, which I chased with re­heated en­chi­ladas and a side of coleslaw. I call this “clean­ing out the fridge,” whereby “clean­ing out” means stuff­ing my face. Bonus: it’s also eco­nom­i­cal.

I rarely leave South­ern Mary­land these days. At­tend­ing a cousin’s bridal shower near Gaithers­burg on Sun­day con­firmed that I’ve lost any re­main­ing love for the Belt­way. I com­muted to the Univer­sity of Mary­land in Col­lege Park from Wal­dorf for three years, and . . . you know, that was fine. I sur­vived. It built char­ac­ter. But now? I’m fine with just nav­i­gat­ing Route 4, Route 5, Route 231 — any of the many routes con­nect­ing us down here, ap­par­ently. Far from the mad­den­ing crowd.

This Belt­way drive was un­avoid­able, though. My sis­ter, mom and I set out early to be sure we’d get to the shower by noon — not tak­ing Red­skins game-day traf­fic into ac­count. By the time we slowed near Ritchie Marl­boro Road, I was dig­ging out a pump­kin bar and steal­ing some of my mom’s salted peanuts.

You see, I come by this nat­u­rally. My mother is a plan­ner and a snacker — nec­es­sary for keep­ing her blood sugar lev­els up. While many of us en­joy a good treat, mak­ing sure to al­ways have food handy is a ne­ces­sity for her. Katie and I grew up know­ing peanut M&Ms, gra­nola bars and raisins were al­ways close at hand, and we took that for granted.

I don’t any­more. When a col­league sent out a party in­vite last month, I re-read it sev­eral times. No men­tion of the meal sit­u­a­tion — only a re­quest to bring a dessert. “This is prob­a­bly a dumb ques­tion, but will lunch be of­fered?” I replied. “Just want to plan ac­cord­ingly, given I’m eat­ing for two.”

That say­ing isn’t true, I know — not in a lit­eral sense, at least. I’m not eat­ing for two full-grown adults, and I know I need to watch my weight (go up! Watch it go up! . . . Just kid­ding, Doc). I am tak­ing in more calo­ries to com­bat ev­ery­thing this child is tak­ing, though, and that means four dill pickle spears in­stead of three. Another scoop of ice cream. A third slice of pizza. Some­thing like that.

When we ar­rived at the bridal shower, I had to re­sist push­ing peo­ple out of my way in pur­suit of the ap­pe­tiz­ers. Women are ex­pected to mix and min­gle and not im­me­di­ately chow down at these gath­er­ings, but I’d spent an hour and a half in the car and those peanuts were noth­ing but a salty mem­ory.

If there’s one rea­son to at­tend a shower (aside from, you know, wish­ing the guest of honor health and hap­pi­ness), it’s for the food. I ex­pect my fam­ily to turn out at these things. We don’t do cheese and crack­ers. I’m talk­ing a full-blown veg­etable plat­ter, breads, dips, even pre-lunch cook­ies — ’cause that’s to­tally a thing. Don’t they say that life is short and we should all just eat dessert first?

I took one of those dainty plates that looks like it should be served at a doll’s tea party

and filled it with grilled egg­plant, red pep­pers and mush­rooms, then slathered it all with hum­mus. Potato chips went on the side. Shrimp cock­tail took up any re­main­ing real es­tate. I planted my­self near my grand­mother, con­tent to have her carry the con­ver­sa­tion, and dug in.

I would nor­mally feel self-con­scious about my over­flow­ing plate when a se­ries of beau­ti­ful, reed-thin women stood empty-handed nearby, but I’m too old and def­i­nitely too preg­nant to care about that now.

And the hour-long open­ing gifts por­tion of the shower? It’s a rite of pas­sage, and I love it . . . but don’t for­get to pass the peanuts.

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