By Anne T. Donahue
I love snacks, and I probably don’t like you if you feel the opposite. I love snacks for dinner, snacks for lunch, and snacks between meals because I know who I am and what I’m about. (Snacks.) And while I’m not exactly party-hopping this holiday season (invite me to your home if you want me to talk about death for three to four hours), I’m hoping that if you are, you will be privy to the most delicious treats money and the holiday season can buy. According to me, an expert. Of snacks.
Honestly, fill your living room with shrimp rings and let your guests float upon them while dousing themselves in cocktail sauce. Shrimp are extraordinary. They are a treat. They are a lifeblood. They are fancy as hell without being so fancy that you feel weird about yourself and your current financial situation. If I go anywhere without a shrimp ring available, I become filled with rage and threaten to set all chairs and curtains ablaze. I want to hold a small, cold shrimp in my large, hot hands and feel like a character in the original Dallas who ate shrimp cocktails with every meal. Give me shrimp. All the shrimp. Right now, and without warning. Everything else is garbage.
Except for these. I love these. I love scallops, and I love the first bite of bacon that prefaces the immediate feeling of being very tired of eating bacon. (I don’t really love bacon.) Like shrimp, I want to hold a hot scallop in my cold hand, and devour it like I’m a guest on Below Deck who doesn’t know how to eat scallops with a fork, for some reason. What I’m saying is that I think I want to live under the sea. Which is the subject for another piece on another day, and likely one nobody would ever want to publish, which I completely understand.
Thinly-cut hard cheese
I hate soft cheese. I hate it. I hate the texture, I hate the taste, I hate it unless it’s part of a sauce or melted at the hands of gravy. So, Brie? Go fuck yourself. You make me sick. Though here’s what doesn’t: hard cheese, sliced very thinly, placed on a cracker. And not just any hard cheese: cheddar cheese. And also this one kind my mom bought over the summer that neither her nor I can remember the name of. I want basic bitch, see-through, familiar-tasting cheese, and I want it when I want it or I won’t have any because cheese is a very fleeting thing for me, likely because our relationship is new and dating me is like trying to shepherd a cat. Yum.
Olives can be a meal unto themselves if you take enough of them and say things like, “Do you think the olives taste weird?” to everybody present so you can have the bowl of olives all to you, the only person who deserves them. They can also be a meal if you go into the kitchen and eat the remaining olives out of the jar. What you do is your choice, but no party is complete without me standing in the corner, eating olives with a spoon.
Meat . . . ? I mean charcuterie, I guess . . . ?
This is where things get tricky. Depending on my mood, my mindset, what I ate earlier in the day, and whether I’d just rather have Subway (Eat Fresh!), I do or do not want cured meats. In this moment as I’m writing? I would love cured meat, and I would love to go someplace with cured meats are, and I would love to eat them all while the tables I’m stealing from beg me to stop. So, for the sake of keeping everybody safe, it is smart to offer one’s guests cured meats. And I find them important amidst the madness of Christmas. Mainly because nobody needs me to start screaming “WHERE IS THE MEAT!!” at the family dog while everyone’s trying to enjoy a bunch of fancy almonds I did not ask for.
Like, here’s the thing. We’re cruising into another COVID nightmare which means I will not be putting my hands near or around a universal pot of anything. But let’s pretend it’s not a living nightmare, and let’s think about dips. Hot dips. Cold dips. Dips with texture. Dips with crab. Every year, my aunt makes a veggie dip that involves sour cream and Lipton soup mix (and other stuff, but honestly, it’s not my business) and I think about it in my spare time, much like I do about her crab dip that I cannot emulate because I am incompetent and also very lazy. Dips are an essential tool to fighting the worst things about the holiday season (most things). And while I will not be sharing a single dip with anyone, writing this reminded me that I must order some. To eat alone. Because it’s another COVID Christmas.