An ode to the salty, crunchy snack that won’t get crumbs all up in your car seats.
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Corn nuts
Credit: Sarah Crowder

When I was growing up, my family had particular snacks we would eat on road trips. These were things we didn't usually keep in the house, like Life Savers, Gummies, Bugles, and Necco Wafers. My dad was always the purchaser and distributor of these snacks, inspired by his own childhood road trip memories and his desire to keep his car clean (there was no way you were eating a crumbly Nature Valley granola bar in Dad's car). 

Of all these Miller family road trip snacks, Corn Nuts were always my favorite. I remember the first time I tried them—my dad passing the bag to us in the back seat with his hand outstretched. I loved how perfectly the narrow, rectangular bag fit in one hand and the loud crunch they delivered when I ate them. I was struck by how silly and fun they were and pretended that I had Corn Nuts for teeth (they're the perfect size and shape for this; try it). 

Corn Nuts are largely absent from pop culture discussion of snacks, but I've discovered that they're a cult favorite for others, too. When I grab a bag of Corn Nuts for road trips with friends, they inevitably end up trying to steal handfuls of my crunchy corn snacks. Over the years, I've spent some time reflecting on why Corn Nuts are the ideal snack for road tripping; I've landed on these five points to explain this phenomenon:

1. Corn Nuts are simply delicious. 

Corn Nuts are a simple snack: deep-fried and salted corn kernels. This is, obviously, very yummy, or else we wouldn't be here. They are toasty, nutty, and salty with a hint of underlying sweetness, a much better version of those corn kernels you find at the bottom of a popcorn bag. There are different flavors of Corn Nuts—the ranch variety is quite good—but if you are a purist like me, stick with the original.

2.  Corn Nuts are silly.

This is a less obvious feature, but it does matter—a silly snack is a fun snack! Why do you think people love Oreos so much? They're interactive; you can pull them apart and lick the filling, which makes the snack experience so much more fun. For Corn Nuts, the silliness starts with the name; it's funny! If you have kids in your car, Corn Nuts will keep them entertained for a while, especially if you show them how to pretend that Corn Nuts are their teeth.

3. When you're in a car, crunch doesn't matter.

You know where Corn Nuts are not ideal? In a movie theater. They are, dare I say it, too crunchy for the moment, and your fellow movie goers will not be pleased. But when you're road tripping, you can crunch as much as you want. Crank the music and eat Corn Nuts to your heart's content. Crunch to the beat!

4. Say no to seasoning dust.

Corn Nuts are a user-friendly, neat snack. They come in a skinny, rectangular bag, which is ideal for holding with one hand and pouring into your mouth. And unlike Cheetos or Doritos, they won't get cheese dust all over your fingers. This might seem like a small detail, but when you're in a car bereft of napkins, or have your hands on the steering wheel, you don't want your fingers to be coated in fake cheese.

5. Corn Nuts are a nostalgic snacking experience.

Road trips are events that make memories. Whether it's fighting with my siblings in the back seat while driving to Grandma's house, or singing with my high school friends in the car, every road trip holds a sense of nostalgia. When I eat a pack of Corn Nuts, they remind me of road trips past. With their kind of retro fried-corn scent and boldly colored, block lettered packaging, corn nuts help you travel back in time.

So give Corn Nuts a chance! Branch out of your safe snack space and journey into the salty, toasty, corny world of these little fried kernels. You can even throw a handful onto a salad as a crouton replacement. But for me, the ultimate Corn Nut experience is driving with the windows down, blasting "Take Me Home, Country Roads" through the car speakers, crunching along.