On my first visit to Eater’s New York office, where I was interviewing for this job, I made a point of trying to find the kitchen as I wandered the halls looking for the conference room I’d been told to wait in. I needed to know what kinds of snacks my potential employer offered. If I got the job, would I have access to unlimited granola bars? A coffee machine that whipped up lattes and cortados? Those terrible CBD-spiked seltzers with the good branding? Or would it be more along the lines of stale banana chips, single-serving bags of peanuts?
I never did find Eater’s snack trove. By the time I’d come on as a writer, the country was in the grips of a pandemic, we were all working remotely, and I was back in California to weather the storm.
At my previous job we’d place our snack order about once a month. Over Slack, our office manager would send the message I looked forward to more than pretty much any other: “SNACK TIME!” Our entire office descended on the group chat with the intensity of kindergarteners released at recess. Everyone in the office had their favorite (and least favorite) snack, and a curious soul always added some unfamiliar and unpromising new addition to our growing shopping list. These missteps didn’t cost us much, though, because we ordered this bounty from Nuts.com, a plain, practical website, where one can stock up on an ungodly amount of trail mix, beef jerky, and chocolate-covered almonds without breaking the bank or being weighed down with nutritional claims and shiny packaging. Once the order came, all the snacks packed in the same Nuts.com-branded zipper bags, we’d crowd around the dedicated snacking table and plunge our hands into the bags like hungry children.
Following the Great Unboxing was at least a week of back-and-forth berating of each other’s snack choices. Who in their right mind could — and actually would — choke down an entire jumbo case of Fig Newtons? What would possibly compel someone to house a family-size bag of salt and vinegar chips, so defeatingly salty that the eater’s lips crack and wrinkle like dehydrating plums? We hated each other’s snacking tastes with a passion. These moments of lovingly hurled disgust and indignation punctuated and enlivened even the most monotonous of work days.
Some days I miss this constant snacking even more than I miss dining out or going to a bar. It’s not that any one snack is unavailable to me now, or that the snacks in our monthly order were that special. But standing around a table piled high with bags of this and that, pecking at them like New York pigeons feels like a pleasure of the past now; it just isn’t something I see happening again for a long, long time. Especially not with the fear that grips me at the very thought of sharing a bag of popcorn, or the reality that it will be months before many of us make our way back into offices. Even seeing scenes of office life on TV and in movies makes me squirm in discomfort.
Spurred by nostalgia and a truly unexplainable craving for the same banana chips I’ve turned my nose up at on many occasions, I recently made my first visit to Nuts.com since joining the ranks of the nation’s WFH employees. The site’s design is as bare as ever, though my browsing did lead me to the company’s founding story, that of Poppy Sol, who sold dried nuts and fruit in a New Jersey open air market beginning in the late 1920s. (Thanks for everything, Poppy.)
Beyond this little look behind the curtains of the trusty snack provider, all was as I remembered: There’s no glitzy branding obscuring my search for new nibbles. Though the need for party-size snacks is low right now, one can still find a bargain on 30 pounds of raisins, or score a 10-pound bag of garlic bagel chips. I scrolled past all the items I’d unsuccessfully lobbied coworkers not to add to our cart — chocolate covered cherries (sweet like cough syrup, no good), organic fruit juice-flavored gummy bears (truly what is the point), and caramel coated popcorn (ordinarily perfect, terrible from this purveyor) — and went for the few snacks that colored my pre-pandemic work life: weird little nubs of half-popped popcorn that always cut the roof of my mouth, a huge bag of sticky-sweet medjool dates, fried green bean chips as brittle and snappy as kindling.
The familiar box showed up at my door a week later, my assortment of snacks rattling around inside. With the plastic bags laid out on my counter, I reignited a before-times ritual, going back and forth with regularity between desk (my dining room table) and snack counter (the only counter in my home). It’s nice to taste some of these flavors again, to crunch down on the weird airy green beans that remind me of an office full of people.
But clicking back to Nuts.com — now prominently bookmarked on my computer — I don’t gravitate to the snacks that I like. I scroll mindlessly through the many chips, candies, and dried fruits that I remain convinced no reasonable human would buy. The technicolor jumble of gummy candies shaped like slices of orange and lemon. The twisting cheddar cheese sticks one of my coworkers consumed in bulk. Rye bagel chips, dusted with a seasoning that is at first perfect, and moments later disturbing as the taste clings to every corner of your mouth. I’m not sentimental enough to really believe that if I just eat the office snacks of yesteryear, I’ll suddenly be transported back to the good ol’ days like Anton Ego tasting a nostalgia-inducing dish in Ratatouille. I don’t even know if I’ll put in another snack order, since a corner store down the street sells most of my favorites. Mostly, I’m content just strolling the undecorated virtual walls of Nuts.com, taking stock of all the snacks I’ll be sure to avoid once more when a coworker eventually — someday — passes them to me.