The Intractable Snack Mix Problem

A short essay by Haruki Murakami, from the book Murakami Radio.

There’s no such thing as perpetual motion, but there are some “semi-perpetual” actions that appear to go on forever. Take, for example, eating snack mix.

Are you familiar with Japanese snack mix? Spicy persimmon seeds and plump, sweetly fragrant peanuts are expertly mixed and served for your snacking enjoyment. Whoever came up with it was a genius. It’s not an obvious combination. I’m not saying the inventor should win the Nobel Peace Prize (if that meant they’d want to be my friend, I might make a push) but it was a transcendently good idea.

If Japanese snack mix was a comedy sketch duo, the persimmon seeds would be the straight man and the peanuts would be the goofball. Peanuts have a lot of character, think for themselves, and aren’t afraid to say how they feel. Sometimes everything seems to be going well with the persimmon seeds and BAM, you get hit with a sharp slap of spiciness. They know how overpowering they can be and yet they lean into their role. It’s a truly superb combination. It takes on the qualities of deep meditative breathing.

It’s for that reason, and I’m not trying to make excuses here, that I could eat snack mix and drink beer forever. I’ll obliterate a whole bag before I realize what I’m doing, and the beer will be gone too (because snack mix makes you thirsty). It’s a problem. It’s where diets go to die.

However, even a food as perfect as snack mix isn’t without its problems. Sharing can be a nightmare. When someone else joins you, the balance between seeds and nuts is thrown into chaos. My wife picks out all the peanuts and leaves me with a big bowl of persimmon seeds. When I complain she says, “But you don’t even like peanuts, right? So don’t you prefer more seeds and less nuts?” And it’s true, I like persimmon seeds more than peanuts. I freely admit that. I’m more into spicy foods than sweet ones.

But when I sit down to eat snack mix I suppress my inner urges and try my best to grab equal parts persimmon seed and peanut. I uphold the “50/50 Rule,” finding a modest amount of happiness under its strict guidelines. It’s a reaffirmation of my perspective that, in this world of both spicy and sweet, we must all cooperative by taking on some of both. But getting other people to accept this would view is, to put it bluntly, next to impossible. So I end up grumbling about it to myself and I nibble at my bowl of persimmon seeds, not a peanut in sight.

I reflect on the difficulties of monogamy as I sit here eating my snack mix.