Crunch, crunch," said Barbara Walters, guessing Nancy Reagan's motives.
"Crunch, crunch," agreed Nancy Reagan, thus providing the world a model of a wife so thoughtful that she chooses bananas for her middle-of-the-night snack so as not to wake her husband.
And thus, network television -- which, with its late-night food commercials is often cited as responsible for late-night snacking -- unveiled a sympathetic voice in the White House for countless nibbling insomniacs.
In the wake, dozens of other famous, near-famous and ex-famous people agreed to tell ALL, to bare their hunger to the public: atheir Night Cravings.
The world could be divided into night snackers and abstainers, but the abstainers would be pretty lonely. And mostly women. Thin people.
The indulgent majority eat what you would expect of them. Rita Jenrette drinks diet Dr. Pepper and, being a true-blue American girl, eats strawberries (blue) and yogurt (white) and bananas (political). Paula Parkinson's cravings are the consummate girl-next-door food: chocolate chip cookies. Muffie Brandon soothes her soul the way her mother did, with hot water and lemon, though like most of the nighttime snackers, she also goes for ice cream.
Ice cream has become the snack that crosses all ages. Once a luxury and rarity, it is now the staple of every freezer. Thus it is the number one solid food craving, second only to cold liquids -- fruit juice or milk. F. Lee Bailey favors orange juice. Jeane Dixon goes so far as to buy three dozen oranges a week and puts their juice in a blender with ice and sometimes a raw egg. If that doesn't sound like a good idea, consider that the oldest woman we could find to interview, the 100-year-old Mrs. Custis at Collingwood Nursing Home, also drinks orange juice during her late-night awakenings.
The most self-indulgent people are writers, who are likely to be busy feeding their creative fires at any hour. Art Buchwald, when he is happy, has a nice little bowl of cornflakes or Rice Krispies with Coffee-Mate and Sweet 'N Low before he goes to bed. The All-American snack. Triggered by television commercials. But when he is nervous or upset, he throws himself a food orgy of peanut butter sandwich, swiss cheese and a slice of ham, and chocolate milk. For Buchwald, going off the deep end means delving into the crunchy kind of peanut butter. Novelist Barbara Raskin, too, hankers for peanut butter, but her crunuch comes from its being slathered on toast. When writing has her hard in its grip, she stays up late eating whole peanuts and potato chips and candy corn (though not necessarily left over from Halloween). Patrick Anderson begs the public not to tell his wife, since he's on a diet, but he sometimes gets ideas in the middle of the night. So he goes downstairs -- just to write them down, mind you. And along the way, "I might have a little ice cream."
Author Joe Goulden doesn't have to keep his late-night eating a secret from his wife; rather, he has to try to beat her to the Chinese restaurant leftovers. If he loses, he makes do with crunchy things like apples: "They clean up your mouth and make you feel better." He also finds a big swig of Tab refreshing in the middle of the night, though he doesn't even like it in the daytime. Must be something about novelists that makes them need to clean their mouths out, no matter what the hour. Les Whitten likes carrot sticks and apples "because they leave a nice taste in your mouth." He is willing to muck up that taste, though, with fried chicken when it is available. That comes from childhood, when he used to have to sneak his mother's Alabama fried chicken. Now he doesn't have to sneak it, and his wife's chicken is Pennsylvania Dutch, but "at 3 a.m. you can't taste the difference." Columnist William Safire also mentions chicken, but, in a statement slathered with innuendo, allows that at 4 a.m. he is known to "lust for the right wing of a chicken."
Athletes have ready caloric justification for nighttime eating. Runner Bill Rodgers finds that an extra 130 miles a week during training requires a fourth meal -- cheddar cheese and crackers, chocolate or fruit juice -- at 3 a.m. The Bullets' Mitch Kupchak gets "cotton mouth" at 4 a.m., so he raids the refrigerator and must have juice, ice water, soda, beer or milk -- something cold and "pretty slimy." That's after his 3 a.m. stop twice a week at 7-Eleven for two beef and potato burritos, "the super big ones." Bobby Mitchell, since he left the football field to become Redskins assistant general manager, can't as comfortably indulge in wee-hours Dagwood sandwiches or chocolate sundaes anymore, so he just puts two pillows across his face and resists.
Food people -- restaurateurs, cooks -- are expected to enjoy food, no matter when that duty calls. Julia Child limits herself to a glass of water and a book, but James Beard joins Nancy Reagan's fondness for bananas; for him they are not a matter of thoughtfulness but of convenience. Restaurateur Mel Krupin has his first breakfast of the day at 2:30 a.m., dry cereal and cold milk, with more cereal later if he tosses and turns. Krupin's restaurant is permeated with the smell of pickles, so he considers Nancy Reagan's banana habit "better than pickles."
"Duck" Chang, however, does not tire of his restaurant's spicy Oriental pastries; he considers them far more satisfying in the middle of the night than, say, potato chips. Joseph de Assereto, who runs Cantina d'Italia, noshes on Italian cheeses -- fontina and gorgonzola -- with fruit, or maybe concocts a little tomato-mozzarella-basil salad. Day and night during the summer he nibbles leaves from a bowlful of fresh basil. Israel Cohen, as the president of Giant Food, has every possibility available for his larder. That's not his interest, though; when he wakes up, he says, "At my age you crave to go to the bathroom." Evan Scholl, 82 years old, has no such problem, but sleeps straight through and saves his appetite for breakfast at his Sholl's Cafeteria.
The abstainers tend to be politicians, television personalities and entertainers, those whose concern for their appearance is awake at all hours: Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (whose diet reduced her to eating corned beef on a piece of paper instead of rye), and Rep. Lindy Boggs (whose secretary, Eva Stuart-Volker, readily admits to eating bananas, which her doctor said would help her nighttime cigarette cravings). Lesley Stahl eats nothing, but her husband, Aaron Latham, who is a writer, admits to finishing their daughter's leftover broccoli, spinach or beans in addition to yogurt and cheese. Robert Walden may be known as a writer -- Joe Rossi on "Lou Grant" -- but he eats like an actor: "The last thing that's on my mind is food." Carol Burnett, after watching a late movie on television, doesn't even wake up. Marvin Kalb abstains as does Ambassador Nicholas Henderson. Marion Barry's press secretary made the point that the mayor works so long and hard that he hardly ever wakes up (although there were strong hints that if he ate, it would be ice cream). Jack Anderson, another avowed nighttime abstainer, is known to eat ice cream as often as possible, at least in waking hours. Barbara Walters declined to tell. Dan Rather, through his press representative (yes, even press people have press representatives), stated that he eats nothing in the middle of the night "at this time." A TV anchorman has to be ready for anything.
Radio personalities, of course, have no professional caloric concerns: Their voices can't get fat. Thus, Larry King, both radio personality and writer, eats chocolate-covered doughnuts during his late-night show and, in the middle of the night (which is 10 a.m. for him), drinks two glasses of "the world's coldest milk," perhaps with a graham cracker. Speaking of thoughtful middle-of-the-nighters, King serves as substitute for a snack for Cable News Network anchorman Daniel Schorr; his insomnia is fed by a glass of water and listening to King: "Radio is my diet."
What people don't eat is made to sound like a moral position. Conductor Sara Caldwell doesn't think nighttime indulgence is good for her figure. Director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, Sidney Wolfe, sounded surprised at the very question, as if he had never considered eating in the middle of the night. And Michael Jacobson, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, turned the question into a political platform: "I don't eat junk food, so I sleep very well." Only four hours a night, at that. Rev. Jerry Falwell's conscience is so clear that he can down one or two pints of vanilla ice cream at 1 or 2 a.m. before going to bed and still feel part of the Moral Majority.
Dr. Michael DeBakey, who needs to be fresh for doing coronary bypasses, says he sleeps soundly and "has no eating habits like that." Actually, no doctor interviewed admitted to nighttime snacking, but several had a lot to say on the subject. The diet doctors, Pritikin and Atkins, may agree on little else, but both attributed night snacking to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Pritikin blames insomnia on eating sweets, which are digested quickly, then leave you hungry. Atkins agrees, claiming that 90 percent of nocturnal awakening is due to low blood sugar. Dr. Stephen Kennedy, director of Project Sleep in the Department of Health and Human Services, says that "middle insomnia," as it is called, could be due to dieting, pain, depression, changed sleep patterns or old age. He adds that if people are going to eat, milk products and bananas are good choices because they contain tryptophan, which is indeed sleep-inducing. Eating heavily, a Dagwood sandwich for instance, is likely to aggravate insomnia. Dr. Frederick Goodwin, chief of clinical psychobiology at NIMH, enumerates excessive caffeine or alcohol intake or a large meal before bed as causes of insomnia, along with changes of season, especially early spring or fall. Goodwin adds, though, that waking up in the middle of the night over an extended period can be a symptom of depression. In any case, Goodwin doesn't eat when he wakes up. He just worries.Probably about being depressed.
For some people, nighttime cravings seem another chance to express their personalities. They can't stop being original even when sleep-dazed. Ron Neal, a Los Angeles screenwriter, eats two quarts of chicken livers with -- he insists -- hot sauce. Metropolitan Opera baritone Sherrill Milnes makes his own popcorn, but if he is staying in a hotel he buys a movie ticket just to get access to the popcorn stand, buys two big boxes and returns to his hotel to feast. Evangeline Bruce, known for her exquisite entertaining, does no less grandly entertaining herself. Her wakefulness is assuaged by cold new potatoes with parsley and salt, and cold pasta with French dressing.
But food may not be the worst of cravings in the dark of night. National Public Radio's Susan Stamberg is known to indulge in smoked almonds, cottage cheese and diet soda. Yet mostly, when she wakes up at night, she confesses, "I eat my words."