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What Do You Eat When You’re Reading?

Reading and eating are two of my favourite activities. In combination they can be sublime–or deadly. As a child, I almost choked to death while gnawing on a salted apricot. I was lying on the floor, reading a book, when I rolled over to turn the page. At that moment, the seed got stuck in my throat.

My mother always warned me about reading and eating at the same time, but I had never thought it could actually kill me. Panicking, I choked and gagged until it mercifully dislodged. But despite the terror of that experience, I still continue to eat and read. Just not lying down (I’ve always wondered how many deaths occurred at Roman banquets).

By the way, by reading and eating, I don’t mean ignoring other people at the dinner table with a book. That’s not allowed in our household, even if my children beg and scream and wave their overdue library books. What I really mean is quality time with a book and a good snack — the right combination can really elevate the experience.

Some favorite reading snacks:
– smoked sardines on toast with sliced tomatoes and melted cheese
– green, unripe mangoes sprinkled with salt
– a slice of cake (any kind)
– chocolate, preferably dark.
– thin slivers of Manchego with crisp apple slices
– instant ramen
– piece of crusty, warm baguette smeared with good butter

I could keep going but I’d better stop before I make a break for the fridge. Granted, some of these snacks take more work than others. And some are more meal-size, though a few olives or a single slice of good ham can be more than sufficient. In fact, tailoring food to the book itself is a higher form of art, though you have to be prepared to make do with what’s at hand. For example, Orhan Pamuk’s wonderful novel “My Name is Red”, set in 16th century Istanbul, made me want to devour tender, flaky pigeon pies and ripe pomegranates, but some dates from Trader Joe’s were ok too.

Recently I noticed that just as I don’t account for the time I spend reading, I also seem to operate under the impression that food ingested while reading is devoid of calories and thus guilt-free. This is clearly wrong, and my waistline can attest to this, but I can’t seem to rid myself of this delusion…

What do you like to eat when you’re reading?

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alison #

    Popcorn, stove-popped if practical, hands-down favorite. Acceptable alternatives: apple, ice cream, Baked Lay’s, dark chocolate, any chocolate. Trader Joe’s dark chocolate edamame.

    January 21, 2013
  2. Gardetto’s, peanut m&m’s, dark chocolate, Hershey’s kisses with almonds.

    January 21, 2013
  3. LyudmylaM #

    I’ve never had salted apricots or the sardine sandwich you describe (both sound like delicious regional treats?), but I do love my bread and butter. In fact, I’m a huge fan of butter all around, heh… However, when I read, have chocolate box in my nightstand, so that’s my reading snack, really. I do agree that some books are plain dangerous for a reader with a hungry stomach!

    January 21, 2013
  4. Hmm, lots of chocolate here! I’m also very susceptible to it although I’ve now proved (by using myself as a guinea pig) that chocolate does indeed cause acne. 😦

    January 22, 2013
  5. Last night I had delicious salty, tangy soppressata spread with peppadew-flavored goat cheese. Heaven.

    January 22, 2013
  6. Annalaura Chuang #

    How about fresh kumquats–perfect with a thriller novel, when you really want to break out into a sweat of anticipation?

    January 22, 2013
  7. Caramel popcorn from whole foods. DEFINITELY A CHOKING HAZARD! xox

    January 24, 2013
  8. sue #

    Trader Joe’s olive oil potato chips (I can no longer keep any in the house as I will eat the entire bag in one sitting); salty seeded chocolate bark; seaweed; popcorn. If only it were true that calories consumed while reading don’t count.

    January 24, 2013
  9. Without a doubt, cookies. I’m not much for baking so Oreos are the most common pick, though chocolate chip cookies from the deli/bakery are the absolute best. However, I do tend to concentrate more on the cookies and less on the book ’til their gone. 🙂

    January 25, 2013
  10. Ha ha! I love hearing about what people like to eat when they’re reading! I’ll be posting reviews of some of my favourite books together with snack suggestions under the Eat + Read section of this blog. It will be interesting to hear if people have read the same books and have other foodie thoughts!

    January 25, 2013
  11. nonsensicalteddybear #

    N*4M!8@yF5hZBV#pU

    March 22, 2014
    • nonsensicalteddybear #

      Whoopsy! Sorry, here’s the real message! I can’t eat while I’m reading because I would drop whatever oily food I happen to be partaking at that time. I try not to but somehow things fall on the pages and it’s not like they’re my books. If I had to eat something then usually it’s leftovers from dinner. Usually just simple Chinese meals with rice and side dishes of chicken and vegetables. The thing before that is something that I wrote and copied and pasted.

      March 22, 2014
      • Good point! The best way I’ve found to eat and read at the same time is to sit at the dining table and use a book stand, the kind that’s common in Asia for text books. This allows me to prop up a book comfortably and use a plate at the table – though I’m only allowed to do this when I’m eating alone 😉

        April 2, 2014
  12. missvickyness #

    Avocado Oil chips in Chilean Lime Flavor from Whole Paycheck, HuangFeiHong Spicy Peanuts, Rosemary Flatbread with Parano Gouda and Boccalone Salami (Orange Fennel!), the big bag of kettle corn from Costco, Japanese Curl puffs in light salt flavor… oh the list goes on!

    September 19, 2014

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