I Was Right: Fancy, Grown-Up Holiday Snacks Edition

By Anne T. Donahue

As a child, the holidays were the fanciest time for two very significant reasons: first, I got to wear a dress with puffed sleeves and crinoline which cemented my status as the most important person in the world. Second, the snacks, sweet baby Jesus (born on Christmas Day), the snacks.

Every Christmas at my grandparents’, I was treated to food that failed to appear at any other family function. I feasted upon chocolate-mint everything, cakes that required freezing up until they were served, and whole walnuts my grandpa had to break open for me, only to realize that I had no intention of eating them, I just wanted to see what was inside. I couldn’t believe my luck at the abundance of shrimp, the presence of gold foil-wrapped chocolate, and cold eggnog that seemed gross to me, but I wanted to seem adult-like so I consumed it with abandon. This, I told myself, was living. And I would maintain this level of abundance as I grew up and into my own holiday traditions.

But then I did not. For reasons that will never become clear, I spent far too many of my trying-to-seem-interesting years rejecting the traditions that made me whole. So this year, I defend them all with my public decree that no holiday gathering is complete without them: the snacks that seemed so grown-up once, and guess what, still are.


The first time I saw a Vienetta commercial, I was enthralled with its suggested glamour: here, in the cold light of day and on my family’s very own TV screen, I was watching a delectable cake sliced and placed into champagne glasses, proving that only the fanciest adults could be privy to its deliciousness. Paired with the voiceover’s “Lovers and Other Strangers”-type voice, I vowed that one day, I would be worthy of a cake that seemed rooted in ice cream, but promised so much more. Now, I understand that my impulses were correct: I am not above a glorified ice cream cake, and I am certainly not above basking in the novelty of eating it out of a glass, like God intended. This is first-class-on-the-Titanic-type shit, and none of us are above being Rose Dewitt-Bukater.

Ferrero Rocher

At one point in my twenties, I thought eating chocolate you could buy at Shoppers Drug Mart was an atrocity, so I became someone who only bought expensive chocolate I didn’t even really like. Frankly, I deserved this punishment because I’ve never really been able to tell the difference and when I could tell the difference, I pined for the simplicity of youth a.k.a. chocolate and candy that didn’t pretend to be anything it absolutely wasn’t. Enter: Ferrero Rocher, whose golden tin foil wrappings suggest a level of class individual truffles at a chocolate boutique never will. As a child, I saw these placed on their own plates, displayed as a triumph of the Christmas spirit. I watched Ferrero commercials dutifully, wondering if I’d ever have the guts to make my own tower of hazelnut-chocolate to greet my guests as they entered my home, wrapped in jewels and fur. Of course, I did not, and I never did, mainly because I don’t know anybody who would show up to anyplace I was wrapped in fur and jewels. But find me a holiday get-together without the majesty of Ferraro and I’ll show you attendees who are longing for more.

The Shrimp Ring

I am not above telling you all who I really am: I am a 37-year-old grown-up woman who, when I’m hungry and can’t justify Red Lobster, I’ll buy a shrimp ring and eat it at my home, all by myself, because shrimp is fantastic. As a result, I refuse to invite anybody to my home without the presence of this specific crustacean because it’s important for me to convey my appreciation for an appetizer that is always the right choice. Nothing says “this event is not joking around” like the introduction of cold shrimp to hot desire. Which is why I congregate around the snack table for hours even now, watching to make sure not a soul double-dips in the cocktail sauce, or that anybody else can get close to my beloved.

After Eight Mints and/or Ovations

No meal is complete without the option of a wee treat, especially if said treat is presented individually wrapped as if meant for you, only you, and only ever you, a member of the Royal Family (in your ow mind). One evening, I was eating dinner at Nordstrom’s with my friend Chantal when our bill was brought with two Ovations; two delicately wrapped chocolate-mint symphonies that transported us back to our childhoods where we knew that only the crème de la crème of gastronomy called for such fanfare. As a child, I’d sneak as many as possible and lie about why I wasn’t able to finish my dinner. As a teen, I bought my own box and ate them dutifully in front of The O.C. And now, I caress every package I see and whisper, “the holiday season,” manically confident that no celebration on earth is worth mentionining without the addition of chocolate to mint.


I say this because at no other time in my life (outside of restaurants that used to serve peanuts you could open and eat at the table before dropping the empty shells on the floor) have I seen peanuts, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts displayed in a way that simply said, “Enjoy.” Nuts are expensive. Nuts are the type of snack you don’t binge eat unless you happen to live atop of crisp $100 bills. Nuts are honestly only good for the first few bites before you realize how thirsty you are and how weird it is to be on your fourth can of Perrier when everybody else is sipping slowly. But alas, nuts. A grand gesture, an excuse to buy very small glass dishes that have no purpose but to store mini protein bombs. I have hosted two full Christmas events in my day (and never again, I’m absolutely fine with going over to somebody else’s house now) and every time I’ve served nuts, somebody has said, “Oh! Nuts!” But then nobody eats them. Because even at the fanciest party, there’s no real protocol for taking a handful of something without putting your gross, dirty hand into a space other people are expected to eat from. Unless you don’t eat them at all, and admire them as I whisper, “Those cost $10.”

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

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