Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time for a Little Nostalgia

I hope everyone had a great and restful Thanksgiving weekend! I wasn't able to make it to the annual Thanksgiving potluck, but it sure looks like everyone had a good time.

For some reason I always expect home to be different whenever I come back for vacation. Maybe my parents made a decision to purge the house of all my childhood belongings and clothes since I never use or need them anymore. Or perhaps they finally decided to fix all the leaky faucets and rusty sliding doors. But no, everything is pretty much the same each time I return. And as much as I'd like to help them clean out my closet and repair the damage we did as kids, a part of me is happy that everything is just how I left it. A constant reminder of what life was like before moving for college.
Even a  glance at the pantry reminds me of  the good old days. Ridiculous amounts of Spam ("Because they were on sale!" -Mom), boxes of S&B curry mix, jars of furikake seasoning, cans of vienna sausage, and packs of instant ramen. Life was not bad. But while those items will probably be in there until the end of time, I believe there are quite a few things missing...

1. Dunkaroos

Introduced by Betty Crocker in 1988, these were the ultimate recess time snack (aside from dry saimin). Each container had little graham crackers with icing on side side for dunking, but in reality, no one really cared for the cookies. They were simply there to shovel the icing (chocolate or vanilla with sprinkles) into our mouths because our fingers were dirty from playing so much four square.

2. Squeezits

Capri Sun may have been the standard lunch box beverage, but Squeezits were more my thing. Although each bottle had a not-so-appealing face molded into it (was an angry gremlin supposed to make me want to drink it?) I still loved twisting off the plastic nub at the top and downing that blue sugar water. At one point, they even made a black colored drink that was a "mystery flavor" and color pellets that you could add to your Squeezit to change its color. Ah, food science at its finest.

3. EZ Squirt Ketchup

This was one of Heinz' best and worst ideas. What kid doesn't like coloring and playing with their food? But then again...purple ketchup? I remember trying a bottle of the green ketchup once. It certainly tasted like the original red, but as a kid who wasn't too enthusiastic about eating her greens, this wasn't something I'd ask my mom to buy again and I'm sure she was happy about that too.
So what exactly turned a bright red product to the colors that run through Barney's veins? Why my dear, it's copious amounts of FD&C Blue #1 (brilliant blue) and Yellow #5 (tartrazine).

4. Handi-Snacks

The equivalent of a savory Dunkaroos, Handi-Snacks were buttery, flaky, almost crumbly crackers that came packaged with a red piece of plastic for spreading the cheez. Now, I had a weird way of eating these. It's like a save-the-best-for-last approach. I would use the "spatula" and shave off the cheese spread very neatly from its cubic container, being sure to make parallel lines each time it ran through. But I would only use enough to thinly coat the cracker on the perforated side. Just so that the cheez got into the holes and the cracker had a hint of its flavor. After going through each of the crackers using this technique, I would then use the spatula to deliver the rest of the cheez into my mouth. Making parallel lines of equal depth, of course. And I would only eat this variety of Handi-Snacks because the other one, which had breadsticks instead of crackers, wouldn't allow me to neatly apply the cheez. I know I sound like a weirdo kid but I couldn't have been the only one who ate things a certain way, right?

5. Lunchables Pizza

Whoever at Kraft had the idea of selling kids cold, raw pizza that wasn't even put together was a genius. These guys were so popular in elementary school, that everyone had a different way of eating them. Some would pile as much as they could onto one pizza, some would make a pizza sandwich, and others would be make all 3 pizzas at once so that each of them got an equal amount of sauce cheese and pepperoni. Again, I was the weird kid and didn't do any of these. Using the save-the-best-for-last approach, I made and ate the pizzas one by one but only used enough sauce and cheese for them to be decently topped. However, each pizza only had one pepperoni, placed in the center, and I would eat around it until the last bite. With left over pepperoni, cheese, and sauce, I would prolonged my Lunchable experience by making mini pizzas using the pepperoni as the new crust. So maybe I wasn't weird. Just smart!
Oscar Meyer also has other Lunchable varieties like ham or turkey and cheese cracker stackers, deep dish pizza, and chicken dunks, all of which were popular in the cafeteria. Sadly, some really good ones , hot dogs, burgers, and tacos, were discontinued. But those that remain have gone on to become the ultimate lunch. They now include Capri Sun or Kool Aid and a piece of candy or pudding cup. Kids these days, so spoiled.

6. Chupachups

What kind of name is Chupa Chup anyway? According to Wikipedia, it stems from the Spanish verb chupar, to suck. Ok, now that Spanish class is over, let's talk about why these lollipops don't suck. Not only do they come in a bazillion flavors, including cola, banana, and strawberry yogurt, but some of them, like caramel vanilla, unwrap as separate flavors on the same stick. It's like getting an ice cream cone that can fit more than one scoop! They are also famous for their partnership with the Spice Girls. I used to buy one everyday at the convenience store in Chinatown just to get a Spice Girls lollipop and hope that the one I chose had a sticker that I didn't have yet. Not going to lie, I usually never bought the ones with Scary Spice on them...

7. Waffle Crisp

They sure as hell don't taste like waffles, but the fake maple syrup got us all hooked. Not only are they the perfect sugar bomb, but even after sitting in a bowl of milk, these little nuggets of heaven stay crisp and even have enough texture to scrape the roof of your mouth while you chew. A pleasure that's well worth the pain, in my opinion.

8. Shark bites

Whatever flavor those white sharks were, they were the best. Period.

9. Easy cheese

A better name could not have been chosen. The whipped cream-like packaging of this product made it way too easy to eat half the can in one sitting, even if it was a cheese product and not really cheese. The only problem I had with it was that it never really looked appetizing once it was squirted out. It looked like an ugly yellow squiggly worm sitting on top of your cracker. Or is that the point? Maybe it wasn't meant to be squirted onto a cracker, but straight into your mouth ('Merica!) Cheddar and sharp cheddar were my favorite and I always ate them with...

10. Chicken in a Biskit

How exactly does one get a chicken into a biscuit? You cook it, dehydrate it, and blend it with spices and flavor enhancers, that's how. The flavor powder that coated these crackers was pure salty MSG-y goodness that stuck to your fingers like cheese powder from Cheetos, but wouldn't stain your hands as much. You can always tell when someone has just eaten these crispy buttery crackers since that distinct chicken/onion smell takes more than one Altoid to get rid of.

What foods would you have on your list? Did you have a particular way of eating them?