What’s your favourite writing snack? (James Burford & La Trobe colleagues)

One of Jamie's 'desserts at work'

As many of us have moved to working from home during the period of the pandemic, we have been zoomed into each other’s living rooms, laundries, backyards, and bedrooms. 

In response, some of us have taken moments to keep our cameras off or put up backgrounds to maintain a sense of privacy. As the pandemic has rolled on (and on), I’ve noticed more fantastic backgrounds popping up, inviting us to imagine what life might be like if we were in fact zooming in from a beach in Bali or the Starship Enterprise.

At other times moments of ‘home’ have merged with work, with guest appearances from family members, animal companions, and the occasional chorus of lawnmowers. One of the things I have also noticed over the past year or so are the snacks that researchers have been sustaining themselves with. For many of us, #WFH (working from home) has meant sitting only metres from the fridge or pantry – so there have been plenty of opportunities to experiment with #WFHsnacks.

I am rather motivated by the pleasures of food. 

Indeed, when I landed my my first academic job in Thailand, I decided to start a collection of photographs which I titled "Desserts I ate at work" - the #DessertsIAteAtWork hashtag is probably a little long to become a thing! I started taking these photos because I feel like work and dessert are paired well together. This collection is now has over 70 images, one of which is the feature tile for this blog post! 

At various points during the pandemic, I have even crowdsourced snack ideas from colleagues after the lunch break of a workshop. Today, in our weekly Thursday Shut Up and Write (SUAW) group, I did just the same. Our group of writers shared a fondness for for cashews and blueberries, apples and raisin toast, corn chips with melted cheese, and strawberries & cream lollies.

Perhaps proving that I am driven to sniff out snack ideas wherever I go, recently I spied some tweets by La Trobe Uni researchers celebrating the treats they’ve been munching on. I invited some of these colleagues to write an ‘ode’ to their favourite snack. Here are the results!


Supreme salty and sweet popcorn (Jeanette Fyffe)

Image by HeatherLion 
The provision of the writing snacks for our old regular Thursday SUAW sessions was one of my favourite parts of my job. I used to like to try to tap into the seasons with fresh fruits, or seasonal treats like panettone or hot cross buns and I always loved it when one of the gang brought a harvest of mandarins or some homemade zucchini slice from their bumper crop.  

I liked choosing biscuits and treats, too.  But then I worried about healthy choices and stuff like that so the whole group also had to live through the hummus and carrots phase.

I tried out lots of options, always looking for something that would nourish the writer but also occasionally offer a moment of surprise and delight.  Finally, I arrived at the supreme staple of writing snacks: slightly sweet, slightly salty popcorn.  It is sweet, but not too much. It is kind of healthy, again not too much - and it is a bit of a treat. If you haven’t tried popcorn, off you pop and give it a try.

The mighty Malteser (Hayley Pickering)

Here is Hayley's snack pile from our 2020 
AcWriMo Retreat
For me, snacks are a necessary part of writing –they’ve fuelled my Honours and Master’s theses, many neuropsychological assessment reports, several creative writing projects, and now 3+ years of PhD writing. 

I use snacks as a motivator (read: reward), as brain-fuel (very important), and as a pick-me-up when needed. Prepping snacks is also an important part getting set up for a new writing project. 

My specific snack preferences have changed over time, although 90% of them could be put into the “sweets” category. 

Chocolate is my go-to if I’m tired, stressed, frustrated, sad, or stuck. There’s always a block or two in the house and in my snack drawer at uni.

During lockdown 2.0, I would make choc-chip cookies every weekend, and these were a regular writing snack (and as I write this in lockdown 3.0, we once again have cookies in the house!). After two years in my current psychologist role, where there’s always lollies in the kitchen cupboard, I have started keeping more of them at home, too.   

But the writing snack that holds a special place in my heart is Maltesers. A close friend and I have had many writing adventures together, and these were always there with us, so they remind me of sleepless nights, good times, and endlessly putting words on the page. 

The comfort of Vegemite on toast (Tseen Khoo)

Images courtesy of Tseen's Twitter account
My favourite writing snack is a humble slice of toast with butter and Vegemite. 

I'll admit I was a no-Vegemite kind of soul until the various lockdowns. Working from home meant I was snacking much more than I normally do - the kitchen is about 2 metres away so what's a person to do? Because I was snacking more, I started thinking I should be vaguely healthy and – ta-dah! - there was the Vegemite that always sat in our fridge. Decades of it advertising its health benefits had finally broken through. I tend towards savoury snacking as a go-to, and Vegemite toast is usually what I'm prepping and eating when I mysteriously go off-camera during SUAW. 

When the pressure is truly on and I'm facing a very tight deadline, there's no snacking. For me, snacking is something that only happens when I'm feeling organised and (vaguely) in control of the work I have to do. 

The constellation of WFH snacks I post to Twitter (pictured) are the photogenic ones that are more interesting to share. Such is the ubiquitousness of Vegemite toast in my life that I have no photos of it.

A limerick for Chill Pills (Alicia King)

Image supplied by Alicia
There once was a PhD student

Who thought it would be rather prudent

To give up the sweeties

Whilst writing her treatise

So now she drinks coffees too frequent

Whilst I frequently would pop over the Agora to pick up a bag of “chill pills”, or toast myself some banana bread with lashings of butter at home, I am now doing FebFast to support the excellent work of YSAS with young people experiencing challenges with substance abuse.

Here’s a photo of my “chill pills” given to me as part of a “PhD survival kit” by the youth peer workers whom I supervised in my last job.


A big thank you to all of my colleagues for contributing to this crowdsourced post. 

We'd love to know what snacks sustain you as you get to writing. Let us know in the comments or send us an email. 

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