Dear Glutton: Movie Snacks

What food is acceptable to eat in a movie theatre?


By the Chronicle Art staff / Thinkstock

Dear Glutton,

My friend and I are hoping you can help solve our longstanding argument about which snacks are acceptable to eat at the movies. I say you could stick to items that are similar to those sold in the concession stand, snack foods and candy only. He says anything goes. Help us out so we can stop bickering and enjoy the movie theatre air conditioning in peace!

– Double Feature



Dear Double,

I have a confession to make. As a teenager, I brought kimchi into a crowded movie theatre. What happened was this: I was going to the movies at a theatre adjacent to a farmers' market selling all kinds of snacks. So some friends and I loaded our backpacks with a little bit of everything: pastries, fruit salad, and a small plastic container of kimbap, delicious Korean sushi rolls filled with a mixture of meat and pickled vegetables, including, in this case, kimchi. As soon as we opened the container I realized our mistake, as the theatre filled with a nose hair singeing miasma of pickled garlic. I learned an important lesson that day: Never bring anything with a distinctive odor into a movie theatre.

Opinions vary wildly on what foods are and are not socially acceptable to eat in a movie theatre, but aside from the nothing with a lot of garlic rule, there are a few basic principles to keep in mind. Movie theatre food should be quiet, without a lot of crinkly wrappers. It should be self-contained, so you don't make a mess (shout-out to the lady I sat next to who dropped an entire container of what appeared to be spaghetti Alfredo on the floor of the theatre where we were watching Hedwig and the Angry Inch!). And, for bonus points, it should be thematically linked to the movie in some way. Although Austin has a number of theatres that will willingly bring you the messiest of all possible foods to your seat (I'm looking at you, Frito pie burger at the Drafthouse), there's a certain renegade pleasure to smuggling in your own, channeling a little bit of the carefree joy of picnicking when it's too hot to actually go outside and sit on the grass.

I know this is a controversial choice because of the odor issues referred to earlier, but I believe that a tightly packed, nonsaucy burrito is an excellent thing to bring into a movie theatre. More compact than a sandwich, less drippy than a burger, and far more delicious than a wrap, there's a reason the humble Mission-style burrito, with its sauce sopping rice and soft steamed tortilla, has become an American classic. Plus, it's relatively quick to eat, so you won't be monopolizing the whole run time with your cilantro breath.

The nice people who run Con Madre Kitchen turn out a mean variation on the classic form, with their baroque and endlessly variable DIY burrito, which, sadly, is only available at lunchtime. But few things are better than playing hooky from the heat and holing up with some delightfully brainless summer blockbuster, a barbacoa burrito nestled next to an aguas frescas in the bottom of your purse.

And if even that is too much for your friend you can still have a good time sticking to wrapperless, non-sticky candy. Big Top is the only place in town to get it, whether you're into obscure Scandinavian gummy candies or are more of a dark chocolate dude. Slap on some candy jewelry, slip some mango Hi-Chew in your pockets, and enjoy that air conditioning. The burritos will be waiting for you when you get out.

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