I first encountered the fruit and nut concoction called Trial Mix, Cosmic Crunch, or what have you, in Switzerland, where it was called "Studentenfutter (student fodder) and came in cellophane cones. The American Consulate in Berne was around the corner from the local zoo. On sunny days I would buy a package of Studentenfutter at the zoo's snack bar, pass through a gate into the bird enclosure, where the birds were uncaged and the people were supposed to mind their manners, and share my lunch with the crowned cranes.

They liked the raisins and dried apples, and they got a lot of them, partly because they were spectacularly a lot of them, partly because they had a habit of standing immediately in front of me, beaks at the level of my stomach and shiny black eyes fixed on the cellophane cone. It was hard to say no.

After returning to America, I forgot about Trail Mix until it began to appear in health stores, and even in supermarkets. We tried several kinds, good and not so good, before locating what for us was the perfect Trail Mix, the combination packaged by Al's Farm Market in Takoma Park.

One day there wasn't any more Trail Mix. What with keeping the vegetables bins full and grinding peanut butter, they hadn't had time to mix any. When second time this happened, I realized that if they could mix it, I examined the fresh bags of trail mix and then bought half a pound each of unroasted cashews, English walnuts, filberts, unblanched almonds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and half-pound bags fo dried apricots, raisins and pineapple. (Dried pineapple is sugary on the outside, candied-fruit-textured on the inside. It is unbelievably sweet.) None of the nuts was roasted, and the mixture was not cooked. It kept well at room temperature.

Ever since, I have been making Trail Mix and using it for holiday and hostless gifts as well as for lunches. The proportions are a matter of taste. Some people might want to add dried apples, pumpkin seeds or grated coconut.

Use of more seeds and fruits, less nuts would mitigate the worst problem with Trail Mix of this type, which is the caloric content. I have not determined this figure scientifically. One problem is deciding what is an average serving, since an average serving is Till There Is Nothing Left. At a guess, I would set the calorie count of my Trail Mix at 700 calories per cup, perhaps more. (Brazil nuts are 50 calories a nut, just for starters.)

The mix is addictive, so the best thing to do with a batch is to set aside most of it for gifts, bags the rest in very small bags and give any leftovers to someone who is planning to climb Mt. McKinley. I like to tuck a supply into the luggage of travelers, as it is good stuff for airports and interstate highways. It will not do as a cocktail munch because it is too sweet.