Snacks by Janis Thiessen

9780887557996 SM

Oh I love snacks. I grew up with a family that was all about snacks and snacking. We had a snack cupboard, and we were allowed to help ourselves to these snacks when we wanted to. The only caveat was that we’d only take “one or two” cookies, a “handful of chips”, or a small bowl of crackers.

I don’t react well when there’s restrictions, and at a young age I rebelled and my eating obsession began. If Mom was out, I’d be in the snack cupboard rummaging around in the back to find her secret stash of chips (she was a Pringles fan). If Dad was around, we would wrestle for first dibs on the snack cupboard.

Mom remained slender her whole life, probably on account of her eating just “handful of chips”. Me on the other hand, felt there was something wonderfully freeing and independent when on my own rummaging around and “finding” snacks and eating them without a care or a restriction in the world. As a result, I have not remained slim.

One of my Mom’s all-time favourite snacks was the Cheezie. My dear Mom, in her wisdom of that age, felt that there was a nutritional value to the Cheezie because it was made with “real Canadian cheddar”. By today’s standards that is laughable, but I can’t fault my Mom. She only knew what she knew and what the world knew at the time.

When I received an email to see if I’d be interesting in reading the book Snacks, A Canadian Food History by Janis Thiessen, I was excited. I mean, I love snacks, and I love history. In the email it mentioned Cheezies and Old Dutch, two snack foods I grew up on.


I have received and read the book, and highly recommend it. The book will interest a variety of people:  Foodies, people who snack, those who long for nostalgia, business people – to learn what worked and what didn’t.

Janis is an associate professor of History and Associate Director of the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg. Don’t let that scare you. The book is full of detail and interesting facts, yes, but her writing style is entertaining and easy to follow. Plus there’s pictures!

figure 17 copy

If you are at all interested in food history or learning how things are made, you will enjoy this book. I was excited to learn about Old Dutch’s history. I had switched to Lay’s sometime ago, because my memory of Old Dutch was the brown chips found in each bag. Remember those? I would toss out the brown chips. I thought they were burnt. After reading Janis’s book learned that there are people out there who PREFER the brown chip, claiming they have a better flavour. If those people were right, we’d see more brown chips. Instead today, we see pristine, predictable chips. I doubt it was Janis’s intent to have me switch chip companies, but after reading the history of Old Dutch, I am now back to Old Dutch chips. Why? Well, after reading about them, they feel like family now and I want to support a Canadian company (and they don’t allow many of those brown chips in the bag any more). figure 47 copyThe section on Cheezies was enlightening too. I don’t want to give it all away but what I found the most interesting is that each and every Cheezie is individual, just like a snowflake. Despite the salt content, I LOVE CHEEZIES. I love the big Cheezies. I love the small Cheezies. I will say out loud that I get annoyed that my fingers turn orange and I can’t work or read while eating Cheezies, but the fact is, its nice to stop doing what your doing and just enjoy them.figure 65 copy

There is also a section on chocolate – discussing Moirs, Gangnon, and Paulins. Remember the Cuban Lunch? My memory of it was vague: a rectangle of chocolate in a paper cup cup containing peanuts or rice crisps. The book clarified it was peanuts. I’m sure some of you also remember these. I remember them when they were 15 cents each (I am dictating this from my rocker in the old age home, trying to keep my dentures in place).


I’m new to book reviewing, so not sure what else you would need to know? The book is 343 pages long. The print isn’t so small you need a loupe to read it. It is nicely illustrated. It is published by the University of Manitoba Press. This I know: I enjoyed reading the book. It gave me a whole bunch of food cravings. I got nostalgic from remembering the good old days. It’s a great book. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friends.






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