Last night Youngest Son said to me, “Maturing is realizing the nuts in the Chex mix are the best part.” It was a moment of self-actualization and intentionality I was proud to see in my 14 year old.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has made homemade Chex mix. My dad jokingly referred to it as “ice melt” because it was spicy and salty and probably could, in fact, melt ice if needed. He was not a fan, but my brother and I gobbled it up like it was dessert. Especially since Mom only seemed to make it around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and gave most of it away as gifts. In recycled coffee cans. Any leftovers did not last. She always said she just got the recipe from the back of the Chex Cereal box, but I knew that she put her own spin on it. She added a little extra garlic powder (who doesn’t love extra garlic?) and she used to put Cheerios in there too. I never understood the Cheerios. As a kid I loved them, but they were the pieces that most often burned, so I eliminated them in my own batches. The peanuts were necessary to the recipe, but they were definitely not the favorites. They were almost always the pieces left behind.
I’ve made my mom’s Chex mix recipe for years. I always add more Worcestershire sauce- I have noticed that the store brand isn’t as strong as the name brand. I double the garlic powder and celery salt, because who doesn’t love a salty snack that makes you so thirsty you need to drink a half gallon of water?
My kids have always loved it, and I’ve made it every month of the year, not just at the holidays. Actually, over the last two years, I made it almost every two weeks. It’s been a snack staple during Covid. But usually, they would eat all the cereal and the pretzels and leave all the peanuts at the bottom. In my humble (and correct) opinion, Chex mix is best when all the pieces are enjoyed together. It’s the variety that is the very essence of a good Chex mix. When you open the container in anticipation of this, and all you see are peanuts, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
If one is having a bad day and all one is looking forward to is feeding one’s misery with mouthfuls of beautiful salty spicy Chex Mix, and one sees only peanuts and like 6 pieces of cereal and one broken pretzel… it can be soul-crushing. Ok. It’s me. I like feeding my misery with mouthfuls of Chex mix.
I’ve spent a long time, years maybe, nagging, pleading, dare I even say begging my kids to at least try to eat some peanuts so we’d finish the Chex Mix proportionately instead of someone (me) being disappointed. I hate wasting food, but I really don’t love eating just a bowl of peanuts.
Occasionally, the hubby would be happy to eat all the peanuts that were leftover. And I would be happy that he was happy and there was no waste and no guilt about wasting food.
Other times I’d be resourceful and throw the leftover peanuts back into the next batch I’d make, taking special care not to add any more to the total that the recipe called for. And many times, putting in less than it called for because I’d know the lonely peanuts would be left at the bottom. One time I ran out of peanuts, but I knew it just wouldn’t be the same without them, so I put in some almonds that I had. I discovered I like the almonds better. So now there is a mix of nuts. Life is always better when you have a variety of nuts, don’t you think?
Chex Mix as a metaphor for Life…?
Sometimes your kids just pick over what’s in the bowl and it’s up to Mom to figure out what to do with the leftovers.
More often than not, it’s the nuts that get left behind.