Friday, June 20, 2008

Snack, Interrupted

It took hours and hours to get to this point:

Some progress

Why don't I explain as verbosely as possible?

I always feel a little guilty when I purchase a snack at one of those "big name" corporate restaurants or coffee shops. However, I don't know precisely why it tugs at my conscience more than choosing something at a major grocery or drug store chain. Maybe a large portion of my guilt derives from my fear that I am snacking less-than-creatively when I, say, grab a bite at Starbucks on my way to choir practice instead of seeking out an a more obscure vendor or brand. It could also be related to the Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein (et al) documentaries I've watched.

At any rate, a fear of the banal choice or too-predictable snack pattern sometimes loses out in the face of the need to snack quickly and efficiently, which I can do when I am in close proximity to a commonly branded locale, the line is short, the employees are speedy and responsive, and I am familiar with which items I am willing to order from the menu. (I've mentioned my other running-late-to-choir standby -- the fish sandwich eaten while walking through the park. What can I say? It's a scrappy underdog that saved the day.)

We're speaking of Starbucks now. Starbucks is usually a winter destination for me, as my order there is almost always a grande* chai latte** -- plus a toffee almond bar, if I'm feeling peckish. The chai, which comes out of a box, is pretty decent heated up with steamed milk. But I don't mind some of the company's icier, non-coffee beverages in the summer. And I did not find myself to be desirous of a hot drink on this latest occasion. So, to accompany my favorite corporate bar cookie, I asked the guy behind the counter what he would suggest to someone (me!) who was in the mood for a cold chai beverage. Turns out, my gallant counterman was quite willing to share information, advice, and opinion. Bonus.

First, he told me that his barista (though no Clint Idol, I'm sure) could make a blended chai drink or an iced chai drink, but oddly -- in my opinion -- strongly felt that someone new to cold chai drinks would be better off starting with the iced variety (rather than the blended). He also seemed quite sure that soy milk is better than cow's milk in an iced chai, though neither he nor I is by habit a soy-drink-imbiber. "The soy milk's on me!" he declared, thrilled, when I agreed to purchase an iced chai with soy milk. Well, okay, then!

As it turned out -- not a bad suggestion. The final, oh, 8/9 of the drink were delicious. (the first 5-6 swallows were a little too sweet). But the course of my snack would not run smooth. This is the sad point of my post (some overlong paragraphs later) and the reason for its title: this website, as a matter of fact, put quite a crimp in my snacking plans.

You see, I was foiled in my attempt to photograph my food and drink after purchase when my camera batteries revealed themselves to be dead. And, obviously, until I could take a picture for y'all, I couldn't consume the snack. I couldn't eat the almond toffee bar in full; I'd have nothing to photograph. It wouldn't be fair to you. And I couldn't guarantee that a partially-eaten bar would retain its structural integrity as I carried it home. No, it was safer to wait to take a bite until after I got a record of it on my memory card. I considered but rejected the idea of also not drinking my carefully-recommended beverage until the camera's batteries could be recharged. But choir practice had not yet begun, so there would be no battery charging for a while. And even if I had decided to put off eating the cookie, I was, after all, thirsty! One can't afford to become dehydrated. Even worse, the ice had already begun to melt, diluting my drink. What a dilemma.

So. Here is a picture of melted ice in the cup (I drank the beverage during rehearsal) -- which (near-empty cup) I carried home in the name of internet verity and your rapt witness -- and the bar cookie numerous hours after it was purchased but just before I finally was able to eat it (post-photo session).

Sad but true.

By the way, these particular toffee almond bars (I've eaten at least 20 since 2001) are good in direct proportion to how many flat toffee pieces are found in them. So give them an eyeball before you order one, if you find yourself near a S___ B___'s while in a corporate snacking mood.

Oh, and also -- we should discus varieties of chai at greater length some time. Of the boxed and bottled "pre-made" types I've tried, there is one brand that has a band-aid-y aftertaste. I would warn you away from it, but I don't remember which one it is.

* I prefer to say, "medium," but find that word is often met with a blank stare.
** I will not say "chai tea" to a coffee shop employee. Chai means tea. I will say "chai tea" if quoting song lyrics or episodes of The Simpsons.

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