Before you call me subversive, let me state at the outset that I have nothing against snack food. When it comes to the inalienable right to gorge oneself on salty, fried, high-calorie, chemical-laced, heart-clogging foodstuffs, I am a strict adherent to the Constitution, which states, and I quote: "Congress shall make no law abridging the deglutition of pretzyls, phritters, or phried lumps of lard."

Now, it's true that when the enforcers of the Patriot Act sift through the record of my dining habits, they will note that, while writing this very column, I was eating, let me just own up to it now, a salad. As if that's not bad enough, earlier today I offered clementines - ya know, those tangerine-type things that you can only purchase a hundred at a time in crates the size of dresser drawers - to my 14-year-old son and two of his friends. Red-blooded Americans all, they recoiled in horror.

But just because I sometimes nibble on a leaf of non-industrially produced vegetable matter or have around the house a non-manufactured citrus product doesn't mean that I don't love snack food at least as much as the next guy. If you want me to get jingoistic about it, I will: In my pantry at this very moment are half-bags of pretzels, corn chips, and potato chips. Why half? Because I've eaten the other half. Clear and conclusive evidence, if any were needed, of my dedicated support of artificial snacks.

Should the Justice Department or anyone else choose to doubt my conviction, they need look no further than my ample belly. Actually, they can't look further. They can't see around it.

As I like to say, "No popcorn, no peace."

Still, even the most dedicated adherent to all that is pre-packaged must admit that a lot has happened in the world of snacking, and not all of it for the good. Take a stroll down any grocery store snack aisle. Bar-b-qued soy crisps? White cheddar popcorn? (White cheddar?) Kettle-cooked mesquite BBQ extra-crunchy potato chips?