Wednesday, August 20, 2014

That's The Way The Granola Bar Crumbles

I have no confidence at the vending machine. I have no faith in myself that I will make the right choice when confronted with so many delicious options.

Earlier today at the office, I had a sudden craving for Swedish Fish. I had an urge to swallow whole several tiny, red, gummy fish. I opened my desk drawer and collected several nickels and dimes that would be required to purchase Swedish Fish from a nearby vending machine. I store all of my coins in this drawer. I call it my "Emergency Swedish Fish Fund."

I approached the machine with a very clear plan in mind. I will insert the coins into the slot, press the letter and number combination that corresponds with the Swedish Fish, watch the Fish in free fall, insert my hand into the door flap and grab hold of the Fish, and then enjoy the Fish.

However, the plan quickly went awry once I realized the machine had been freshly stocked with so many of my other favorites. Snickers. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Doritos. The Swedish Fish occupied the C5 slot, but what about the Skittles in D5? Or the generic but wonderfully cheesy "Party Mix" in A3? Oh wow, is that Juicy Fruit in a rectangular slot in F2 for only 50 cents? The pressure...I can't take it! Ahhhhhh!

I'm a terrible player at Battleship, by the way.

I stared at the machine. I tapped the glass. I wiped my eyebrows repeatedly. Keep calm and make a choice, I told myself. Three minutes later, I did just that. I purchased Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars. Nature's candy.

I somehow talked my way out of Swedish Fish and into a pair of rectangular bars of "Oats 'N Honey." This is what happens in the face of enormous stress: I make rash decisions.

Truth be told, I kind of like Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars. Of all the selections in the vending machine, they typically offer the most bang for my buck. A Nature Valley wrapper contains two bars, not one, and they're both larger than, say, a Twix or a Kit Kat, candies that also come in pairs.

Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars do carry a significant risk, though. The risk of competely falling apart as soon as you take a bite. I've yet to successfully consume two whole Nature Valley bars. It has to be the single greatest challenge in the food world.

When I first chomp into a Nature Valley bar -- without fail -- it begins to disintegrate. A downpour of granola debris will land on the floor. Another bite, and a thumbnail-sized piece of crunchy granola will fall by the wayside. Occasionally, I've lost as much as half a bar from one bite.

It feels a bit like the culinary version of Jenga. Eating a Nature Valley bar is a fine balancing act. The main objective is to keep it intact. You know it will be unsteady, so you have to be especially gentle with it. You're just trying to make sure it doesn't completely crumble. If a larger percentage of a Nature Valley bar ends up in my mouth rather than on the ground, I'm satisfied.

Admittedly, this is never a concern with Swedish Fish. Or with Birthday Cake M&M's, for that matter.