The perfect conversational topic? Let me suggest snacks. Yes, I know that much of the world goes to bed hungry, and that packaged foods make for a lousy diet. But, in the context of casual conversation, rich poor city country ethnic variety ... well, snacks are a winner. People don't dismisss the topic. I have never heard anyone say, I don't snack. And yet I have never heard anyone say that they like everything either. Sweet or savory, hot or cold, before bed or before exercise -- there are lots of places for the conversation to go. People will have preferences, and they will not be shy about expressing them. There is nothing, a woman said to me once, absolutely nothing like the first handful of salted peanuts from a freshly opened can. I would have proposed marriage on the spot except that I was already married to her.
Another thing I like about snack talk is that it is never earnest, the way talk on love or politics, art or real estate, or diet generally can be serious. (This little entry is about as serious as it gets.) Nor is snack conversation mean, as in, My God did you see what that woman had in her hand? At 2:00 in the afternoon? What was she thinking? No one talks about snackin' crimes. I do not, speaking personally, need chocolate in my life, but I know many people who do, and I respect them for it. Snacking begets tolerance. If only there were a way to extend this attitude -- the snacking state of mind -- to world affairs in general, what a heaven on earth this might be.