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Snack Attack Supermarket. Photo: The Peterborough Examiner

Bites Beyond Borders | An (Attempted) Conversation with The Kawartha Region's Largest Exotic Snack Shop

Written by
Isla Gole
and
and
August 29, 2023
Bites Beyond Borders | An (Attempted) Conversation with The Kawartha Region's Largest Exotic Snack Shop
Snack Attack Supermarket. Photo: The Peterborough Examiner

The year is 2019, I had just landed in San Francisco on the eve of my 19th birthday to meet my internet friend of six years, who I will call ‘Tina’, for the first time in person. Luckily for me, Tina was actually a teenage girl with similar interests to mine, and not an elaborate, half-decade long commitment played by a man in his forties. We had met in the comments section of a post on Vine in 2013, and spent most of our time conversing about music, the banes of adolescence, and obscure internet figures. 

It’s no secret Canada is heavily influenced by American pop culture, so given the high permeability of our virtual southern border paired with a sizable chunk of my formative years spent online, meant the bounds of our virtual online friendship was, for the most part, immune to culture shock. 

After our initial obligatory geological-themed exchanges, the novelty of an international border between us soon became an uninteresting afterthought, as the chronic conversations about almost everything were far more interesting by comparison. The trip was great, her family was lovely, and I had a grand time doing crazy things like getting a tattoo, and eating Carl Jr’s, America rocks! 

Living about 45 minutes away from Washington state, I had been to the United States several times before, mostly in the company of my mother when we would make special back to school shopping trips at Bellis Fair mall, so I could return to class and be the only one with neon Justice fits and Trader Joe’s snacks. Needless to say, the casual appearance of Trader Joe’s Strawberry Chia smoothies and obscure diet sodas on Tina’s end of our FaceTime calls always evoked a certain jealousy in me. 

For me to embark on a several hour-long, cross-country excursion to obtain the same product that took Tina a five-minute walk to the nearest TJ Maxx, made me view Canada like the less-popular scrawny little brother to the United States. Besides the handful of chocolate bars and chips, there wasn’t anything in Canadian snack aisles Tina couldn't find in her motherland. This phenomenon was heavily apparent during each Washington expedition, where only one in every few hundred vehicles awaiting entry into Canada boasted a Washington license plate, the other 99.9% were British Columbia plates on vehicles packed so full of Target and Trader Joe’s shopping bags, the drivers vision out the back window was often completely obstructed. 

As Tina and I eventually grew apart, I saw less instances of her White Claw and La Croix swigging (both of which were unavailable in Canada at the time…) as our FaceTime frequency had grown sparse. The more we drifted, the intensity of my ‘loser little-brother’ perception of Canada gradually lessened. Though a part of me still harboured some resentment over the bleak selection of edible capitalist-aberrations Canada had to offer in comparison to our southern neighbors, it would be the Anthropology of Food Politics course I took in my final semester of my undergraduate degree that provided me with revelations on the disparities between Tina and I’s pantries.

Perhaps Canada isn't as much of an unpopular little brother as it is an uncool health nut mother who you only grow to appreciate when you reach 40 and are free of heart disease. However, with that being said, strict parents create sneaky kids. You can only tell a child ‘no’ to a bottle of Mrs.Buttersworth Fruity Pebble Flavoured syrup so far into their adolescence before their morbid curiosity finds a way to get a taste. 

That's where businesses like Snack Attack Supermarket come in. Peterborough’s very own, Snack Attack Supermarket was the ‘sneaky kid’ who opened my saccharine snacking options beyond the bounds of local Canadian big box grocers. Opening their first of three locations last September in downtown Peterborough, Snack Attack boasts over 1200 products from around the globe. 

With its over 5000 square feet of retail space occupied by sought after energy drinks, obscure flavoured familiar products like cookie dough-stuffed Oreos, and even four vintage arcade machines for customers to entertain themselves with as they shop, Snack Attack Supermarket truly has something for everybody. I found my ‘something’ at Snack Attack shortly after their grand opening last summer—a can of mango Liquid Death, the same flavour that seemed permanently affixed to Tina’s hand during our once-frequent FaceTime conversations that I could never seem to find without a trip to Washington. 

I have since frequented this establishment to stock up on cans of bittersweet nostalgia as well as marvel at the sheer absurdity of some of their fine products. From bags of Larry the Cable Guy-themed ketchup chips, to cans of Lemon Warheads flavoured sour soda, the mere sight of them alone could undoubtedly send a small Victorian child into a coma. 

Perusing the display table archipelagos of Snack Attacks in the company of upbeat YouTuber outro-sounding EDM echoing throughout the store, I looked at what appeared to be two identical packages of M&M’s candy, and was only able to decipher the variance of the products by their respective ingredient lists, which only slightly differed in the food dye portions. Where one package contained ‘Sunset Yellow’, the other read ‘E100’, (or, turmeric). Sunset Yellow M&M’s were in fact manufactured in North America, whereas their E100 counterparts were concocted across the pond in the European Union—where each food colour authorized for use is subject to rigorous scientific safety assessments. 

Point being, every Snack Attack product has a story to tell. The expansive retail space acts as a food politics museum of sorts. To see packages of North American and European M&M’s together in the same space felt about the same as watching local woodland vermin weasel themselves into enclosures at the Peterborough zoo, casually walking alongside a Eurasian Lynx that belongs on the other side of the planet, but for whatever reason, is here.

My curiosity surrounding Snack Attack only grew as weeks passed. “How do they find this stuff?”, “Who is buying this stuff?”, and “How did they find a fully stocked PRIME cooler complete with Logan Paul and KSI decal? is this allowed?– were among the burning questions keeping me awake at night. Deciding I could not answer them myself, I invited Snack Attack Supermarket themselves to do so for me to the best of their ability. Ecstatic that they agreed to speak with me, I spent the following two weeks closely monitoring my email inbox awaiting confirmation for the time and date of our highly anticipated conversation. I was so ready. 

I spent hours in front of the mirror rehearsing my greeting “Hey Snack, Its Isla from Arthur…” Too casual. “Greetings, I am Isla hailing from the institution of Arthur. I am present with the purpose of conducting an interview with your esteemed manager…” Too formal. Maybe I'm overthinking this. “Breathe…” I whisper to myself. I dabbed the bead of sweat rolling down my forehead, and proceeded to lay out my outfit on my bed, where it would continue to lay for a fortnight to follow. I've had this article queued up for quite sometime now, ensuring my colleagues this conversation will be worth the wait. But today, I find myself at the final stage of grief, and blissfully accept my fate—those motherfuckers are not replying, and that's okay. 

So what if I steam cleaned my Zara blazer and got my roots touched up in anticipation? Life evidently goes on. As I retrieve this article from my archive of incomplete pieces, I walk away with a life lesson possibly more insightful than any talking points in my conversation with Mr. Attack would have, could have, and should have been. Nobody owes you anything. Not your lover, not your neighbour, and most definitely not an establishment with enough caffeine within its four walls to hospitalize every remaining silverback gorilla on god's green earth. 

As for you, Mr. Attack, though we may never meet in this lifetime, perhaps we can project ourselves into the astral plane, and continue our conversation that was perhaps too advanced for the dinky physical plane we call home. 

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