To mismatch a few lines from Shakespeare, anyone who understands "how full of briers is this working-day world" can easily become "a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles." In a word: snacks. The busy Bard must have known that breakfast and lunch may not be enough for those who toil with "an unbounded stomach."
Today's stomachs demand between-meal treats and, accordingly, snack foods are big business. The $80 billion U.S. industry supposedly got its start in 1853, when potato chips were invented to satisfy the fussy palate of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, grandfather of Shelburne Farms founder Lila Vanderbilt Webb. This early gobble-on-the-go grub became an instant smash among the rich and famous.
As of 1998, according to the Inter-national Dairy Deli Baker Association, an estimated 93 percent of Americans were indulging in all sorts of snacks - half of them at least two to three times a day. But not just on the run; most of us indulge in on-the-job chewing, too. We wondered what guilty pleasures might be fueling our fellow local worker bees, so we asked them to rifle through their drawers and tell all.
Patty Shevchik relies on Werther's Originals - butterscotch-flavored candies. "They get me through the day," explains the florist. "I have one in my mouth as we speak."
The snacks at her two-person shop, Flower a Day in Colchester, alternate between sweet and salty. "We have candy days and chip days," Shevchik says. "Always Cape Cod Potato Chips."
It's common knowledge at Victoria's Secret in the Burlington Town Center that chocolate bars are usually stashed behind the counter. Elaine Reid, a sales associate, reveals even more casse-croûte confidences from the women's lingerie emporium: "We also get free samples of pumpkin bread and pie from Williams Sonoma," she says, referring to the nearby kitchen store that sells gourmet and imported delicacies.
Natalie Billings, manager of Milton tanning and hair salon Tropical Escape, cites the numerous noshes an unnamed colleague enjoys on a daily basis. "Let's see, today she's got fruit roll-ups and Altoids. Usually it's candy, candy, candy, but she probably weighs 90 pounds when soaking wet."
Billings, in contrast, is on a diet. "I'm drinking a lot of water," she says. "I have good willpower."
the cavity curse
Don't be fooled by the fact that Rita Markley keeps a toothbrush in a desk drawer otherwise filled with devilish delights. Does she use it? "No," admits the executive director for the Committee on Temporary Shelter in Burlington, before enumerating the contents of her treasure trove: "Mint Lifesavers. A Green & Black's Maya Gold Chocolate Bar. A milk chocolate bar with hazelnuts. Two Champlain Chocolate espresso-flavored truffles. A roll of mixed-fruit Mentos. A chewy chocolate-chip granola bar."
Markley, who shares this bounty with her co-workers, points out that "some people go to stress-management classes. I have that right here in my drawer."
The right-hand drawer of Governor Howard Dean's desk in Montpelier has been home to spice drops throughout his years of guiding the state, reports Press Secretary Sue Allen. When it comes to these gummy goodies, the presidential candidate apparently prefers the sour kind.
Would this sugary snack continue to be a favorite of the good doctor from Vermont if he occupies the West Wing of the White House - like Ronald Reagan's fabled jellybeans? "Old habits are hard to break," suggests Allen.
taxing taste buds
Public servants are under a lot of pressure, and that nervous tension can spawn daylong nibbling. Just ask Juli Lax, the Huntington town clerk. "We live on microwave popcorn here," she says. "There's always a bowl of candy, as well. Today, it's Smarties. But we're almost out because it's property-tax time."
Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle keeps something way, way off the beaten snack path in his City Hall inner sanctum: hot sauce, culled from his collection at home of about 100 bottles of the tangy stuff from different countries he's visited. "My favorite is mungo from Grenada," says the peripatetic Prog. "It's made in the kitchen of a little old lady."
Although Clavelle has so far refrained from guzzling salsa straight up, he claims it's yummy with everything but ice cream. "I tend to grab lunch on the run. Most food is far too bland, so I always keep a bottle in my desk. For me, the hotter the better. Today, I had it on coleslaw."
For wimps whose gullets are more tissue paper than cast iron, the preferred "little smackerel" - to quote Winnie the Pooh - is smack dab in the middle of the starch family. And for some reason, according to a federal Department of Agriculture Web site, New England in particular has become a bastion of crackerheads.
"We eat Ritz Crackers or pretzels," says Elaine Bergeron, who helps out at her daughter Karen Boucher's Video Showcase in Winooski.
apple of his eye
A flour-based morsel is also the usual choice for Bob Russo, who owns Village Opticians in Essex Junction. "I'm not really a snacker," the eye expert contends. "I have my three squares a day. But when I do get that hunger, I'll have a few Triscuits."
Stoned Wheat Thins do it for the folks who labor at Yankee Pride, a fabric and quilting supplies store in Winooski's Champlain Mill. "We've also been known to have chocolate at times," confides sales clerk Julie Sopher.
Salted Vinegar Cape Cod Potato Chips, low-fat Ritz Crackers and chocolate devil's-food donuts find their way into the Malletts Bay Veterinary Center, reveals receptionist Joan Baynham. "The chips and crackers are at the front desk; the donuts and an occasional cookie platter are for the inner office. We raid 'em both on a regular basis."
by the book
The munchies frequently hit hard at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in Williston, where eight staff members bring in animal crackers and pretzels to share. "We also have an M&Ms vending machine here for a real self-reward," points out circulation librarian Mary Rutherford.
Communal pretzels are a given at Apple Island Real Estate in South Hero. "But right now, we've still got leftover Halloween candy, like Hershey's Kisses," says Nina LeDuc, the company's vice president. "I also keep candied ginger and, sometimes, a protein bar."
When a hectic schedule prevents Warren Marsh from eating sensibly, the Jericho massage therapist will turn to a Nature's Valley trail-mix bar or some unsalted sourdough pretzels. Those might well be the edibles that keep things calm at his practice, Tranquility Massage.
Graham crackers and hot chocolate are staples at the Titus Insurance Agency in Shelburne. "But we make microwave popcorn almost every day," adds agent Jill McCaffrey. "I'll eat Altoid mints, though, when I'm on a health kick."
At the Charlotte Family Health Center, the casual fare is generally rather nutritionless. "We bring in popcorn, veggie-flavored crackers, Cheese-Itz, Cheese Doodles, M&Ms and Lipton Chicken Noodle Cup-A-Soup," says receptionist Jill Freyer. "Feel-good food."
feed your head
Feel-virtuous food, on the other hand, is standard at Head Spins Total Hair Care in Richmond. "I'll snack on almonds, dried fruit, carrots, celery sticks, apples or oranges," explains the owner, cosmetologist Carole Coggio. "Only healthy things."
Gretchen Adsit, who operates Upper Ten Trailer Sales with her husband John, also tries to eat healthfully. "We like granola gorp, fruit, carrots, snap peas and radishes."
Even in their salubrious Hinesburg haven, the Adsits will periodically regress with peanut butter on - you guessed it - crackers.
The dough factor also appears to be significant for Polly Vanderputtern, a teacher at the South Burlington Montessori School. "My mid-morning pick-me-up is a slice of dinkelbrot," she reveals. "It's a whole-grain bread made by Deeter's Bakery in Northfield."
Vanderputten spreads only unsalted butter on her dinkelbrot, which seems like more than a mere "unconsidered trifle." But, given the opportunity, at least one elected official would surely slather it with hot sauce.