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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Editor's Note: You may know Leandra as the author of the long-running Cereal Eats column. As we kick off 2014, we thought it was about time to let Leandra spread her wings and cover some non-cereal related snacks (don't worry —she'll still cover cereal, too!). Here's her debut, on a beloved handheld childhood favorite.

As you might imagine from my cereal ramblings, my childhood was not only devoid of Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, but of nearly every other good snack food on the planet. My mom was notorious for offering friends a snack and then serving up naked apple slices, or putting carrot sticks in my lunch boxes. With a barely suppressed evil laugh, she would warn me not to trade with the other kids. Now I'm grateful that she wanted to nourish me with whole fruits and vegetables, but that childhood deprivation awakened a snack food lust that I fear will never be sated.

I tried to make up for it in college with endless bags of Smartfood and Cheetos, but to this day, when a bag of chips or cookies arrives at SEHQ, I'm the first one ripping into it, while everyone else digs into some sort of Asian eggplant dish. But I know there are other snack-food lovers are out there. Those who aren't afraid of the cheesiest, sugariest, sour-cream-and-oniony-est treats in all the land. Join me on this snack odyssey, won't you?

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Let's get down to business—today we are talking about Handi-Snacks. In elementary school, this was the holy grail of snacks for many reasons. I had a handful of brushes with Handi-Snacks in my youth, and each instance loomed large in my heart and memory. Let's start with just the packaging and shape. Surpassing even the coolness of Dunkaroos, that red stick that comes with Handi-Snacks—allowing eaters to spread their own cheese—offered me one of the first autonomous decisions I was able to make in my young life.

But with great power comes great responsibility—the first few times I had Handis, I found myself gleefully spreading thick layers of "cheese" onto the first two crackers, left with nothing for the remaining two after that. A travesty. Eventually I wised up—even to the point where I was able to leave some of the cheese to eat by itself with that happy little red stick.

But, what about the taste? The crackers are Ritz, which means they are incredibly salty and buttery, in a delicate rectangular shape which is optimal for being spread upon. And then there's the star of the show: the cheese. I'm not going to get into the color, the texture, the length of the ingredient list or the startling saltiness. When it comes to artificial cheese dips, be it in Handi-Snacks, ballpark nachos, or any other glorious place it might be found, you either get it or you don't. I get it, and I celebrate it.

Apparently there are some new varieties of Handi-Snacks, including one with peanut butter dip, one with pretzel sticks for dipping, and Honey Maid Grahams and Apple Dip. I aim to try them all. Surely, I can't be the only one with a soft spot in my heart for Handi-Snacks...right?

About the author: Aside from doing an awesome job with her role as Advertising Sales Manager, Leandra Palermo secretly harbors a lifelong passion with all things crunchy and served with icy cold skim milk. This column represents the culmination of that love affair.

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