Snacks are front and center at our house

Snacks are front and center at our house

Up until a few months ago, there were bags of snacks scattered at one end of the kitchen counter. My wife discovered a source for arguably healthy snacks online and placed several orders, and the bags piled up. We continued to get the usual stuff, and that made the pile bigger.

Snack makers must plot the coming season’s flavors much like fashion designers somewhere in a tower decide what you’ll want to wear next year. This is actually true.

A designer friend told me several years ago there are people somewhere who are responsible for the colors you see splashed all over everything in any given year. I don’t know how you get that job, but whoever has it has been lazy in planning 2020’s color scheme. All they could come up with was “bleak?”

In the last few years or so, the push for salt- and vinegar-flavored everything has come up to par with the annual rush for pumpkin spice and the regular, certainly justified love of salted caramel.

We’re kind of salt and vinegar fanatics, so the snack pile gathered up all manner of chips, pretzels, almonds, dried peas, crackers, cheese puffs, popcorn and probably a few things I’m unaware of.

The spilling-over pile on the counter was not a very good solution because we had to move it every time we wanted something from the stacked cereal boxes behind it. So I found a big basket and moved all the snacks into the living room where they get eaten anyway.

All we had to do was keep the stale stuff rotated out and we were in business, a process that got a boost last week when my wife developed what we suspected was a nut allergy. Out went anything remotely connected to any kind of nut, reducing the basket by half. Nuts proved to be a false culprit, but the inventory reduction was a boon anyway.

Actually, salt and vinegar is not at the vanguard of snack flavors, even though it has numerous subdivisions like sea salt, pink salt, malt vinegar, balsamic and more. The variety of creative flavors in potato chips is pretty daunting, as snack makers try to outdo themselves with ever trendier tastes.

Vinegar came to be added as a way to reduce added salt while bringing the supposed general health benefits of vinegar to the table. But chip makers have gone off the radar with their concoctions.

Around the world you can find chips flavored with basil and summer tomato, cappuccino, ramen chicken, ranch and fried pickle, salted Christmas tree, bloody Mary, roasted ham, pizza, wasabi, mushroom soup, garlic scallop, lobster roll, cola, Brazilian salsa, raspberry bellini, “mature” cheddar, mint, and, I kid you not, Scotland has “haggis crisps.”

I had intended to throw in a few flavors I made up just to be clever, but I can’t think of anything more made-up sounding than Christmas tree or coffee-flavored potato chips. I don’t want to be around for the post-snack belching from any of these flavors. I think when I was a kid, the options were barbecue, and I think barbecue was it.

Still, salt and vinegar is the fourth-most-popular flavor in the USA (first is plain, then barbecue, then sour cream and onion in third) while it enjoys the number-one spot in the U.K. Salt and vinegar has just hit Japan, where snackers like strong-flavored snacks, and will no doubt push out most others there soon.

With manufacturers pouring so much effort into creating chips you might like, your turn for creativity comes in the dip, which you can make yourself in many weeks of experiments. Start off with a base of sour cream, avocado, tomato or chickpea puree and add ingredients as the mood strikes.

Garlic, lime, cilantro, artichokes, caramelized onions and any herbs you like are no-brainers. And you’ll be controlling ingredients and skipping all the additives and preservatives found in commercial dips.

In our mostly home-bound lives of bingeing television series, snacks are front and center this year, and there’s no shortage of things to try with your Netflix evening.

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