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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Game Day Snack Anxiety Hits Home

Snack time is big for Little Leaguers — and their parents. Jo McGarry photo

It’s opening week of Little League Baseball and, for most parents, that means spring and summer days spent at the ballpark encouraging their youngsters to play well and not worry too much about the score. For others it means meeting up with old friends, or making new ones who’ll last the span of a season or more.

But for me, the start of baseball season means just one thing: snack anxiety.

While other parents get their little ones ready for the game, I am doublechecking the snack roster just to make sure it’s not my turn.

When our boys first started playing sports I assumed the after-game snack was, well, a snack which just shows you how wrong you can be.

The fact that on game day parents were arriving at the games with 6-foot collapsible tables, rice cookers and enough chili to feed the entire HPD didn’t really register the first time I saw it.

By game two, however (4-foot table, hot dog steamer, rice, macaroni salad, two coolers of drinks), I was more than a little concerned.

“Where are the orange segments and the water pitchers?” I asked my husband Bobby on the way home from game three. “Why are we eating entire meals before dinner?”

He gave me the kind of look that usually means “get with the program.”

And so began my series of snack disasters.

Like last year, when I decided to forgo the usual midnight preparations of a meal for 40 people and buy bentos instead. With an hour and a half to spare, I drove into town to pick up kid-size portions of hot dogs, musubi and teri chicken only to find they weren’t ready. They weren’t even on the grill. I called my husband, who understands the grave significance of snacks.

“We’re in the bottom of the fourth,” he said loudly, as if the woman slowly grilling the chicken could hear or could care. “You’ve got about 20 minutes.”

He was just as loud but less cheerful 20 minutes later when I reported being stuck in traffic.

“Everybody’s just standing around and waiting,” he reported. “Waiting for the snacks.”

My worst snack nightmare was one opening day when I had to do everything: get to the park early, get the boys ready for two different teams and have two sets of snacks ready at two different times. I’ve blocked out the details, but I get palpitations just recalling the day.

It’s not that cooking intimidates me. I have cooked for a president. I can confidently create a Thanksgiving meal for 20 people without batting an eye. I whip up batches of homemade cookies before breakfast and make my own pasta from scratch on weekends, but there’s something about snacks that sends my blood pressure soaring.

And I’m not alone.

While other people might not admit it, I refuse to believe I’m the only person who thinks pizza, fried noodles, chicken katsu and sugary juice make inappropriate snacks, or that having to feed 20 people on a school night and then go home to make dinner is stressful.

One friend calls her version of stress “snack paranoia … I’m always thinking I forgot my turn. I check my email 10 times and then think my husband didn’t tell me they changed the schedule. I only stop panicking when I see someone else arrive with the table and cooler.”

I suppose that some day someone might decide that a bag of orange segments and a pitcher of water is enough of a snack for Little Leaguers after their game, but it won’t be me.

While I might not have the awning, the giant pitcher and a rice cooker large enough to feed a small nation, I do have an understanding of the laws of the game. Snacks rule.

So, happy snacking!

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