Childhood food memories have a profound impact. No meatloaf will ever be as good as your grandma’s meatloaf, even if your grandma’s meatloaf wasn’t actually that good. But some food memories are so tied to a time, that they won’t be repeated. Commercial foods are taken off the market, fads come and go, ideas about nutrition change, and the result is that some food memories will remain just memories, sometimes for the best. But nostalgia is a cozy feeling, so it’s nice to revisit food memories, even for foods you’d never eat today even if you could. Here are 15 foods you’ll probably remember and your kids will probably never have.
TV DinnersThe first TV dinner was sold in 1953 and they gained new life with the popularity of the microwave oven in the 80s. In my house, the occasional TV dinner felt like a real treat. As I grew older, I realized that adults didn’t really share that feeling, which is why for the most part, the niche of fast, convenient dinner has been supplanted by the hot prepared foods that are now sold at grocery stores, and soon a “TV dinner” will seem as alien to our children as the idea that you had to watch shows on a TV.
Image: Smile Lee/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#tv-dinners
FondueSure, it’s still technically possible to melt a bunch of different cheeses together, put things on skewers, and dip them in there, but unless you’re having a 70s theme party or you are Swiss, why would you? (Side note: I took a class on American history when I studied in France in college and the prof referred to America as a “fondue pot.” I never learned if this was just his own thing or if that’s what they say instead of “melting pot.”)
Take a walk down memory lane — make beer and swiss-cheddar fondue
Image: Laura Levy/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#fondue
Pop RocksGeneral Foods withdrew Pop Rocks from the market in 1983 due to the amount of money they lost after paying out the family of the actor who played Mikey in the Life cereal commercials. No, wait, according to the internet, it’s because they weren’t profitable and had a short shelf life. That’s what General Foods would like you to believe anyway. Another company makes and distributes them now, but on a much smaller scale — I’ve never seen them in stores. Today’s kids will have to start their own urban legends. Which reminds me, did you hear that the kid who inspired Phineas in Phineas and Ferb went into a coma after eating too much Pirate’s Booty?
Shake-A-Puddin’It’s powdered pudding mix that you add milk to and shake. When you’re done, you have something that is sort of almost like the consistency of pudding. I think this product was a goner when they figured out how to do individual servings of pudding.
Check out a Shake-A-Puddin’ commercial from the 60′s/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#shake-a-puddin
Ethnic Food KitsAmerica’s international palate has been steadily expanding since the country’s founding, but increasingly people are comfortable cooking cuisines they didn’t grow up with. Italian food used to be something of a specialty food (unless you were Italian) but now most home cooks have at least a couple of pasta recipes with sauces from scratch they can do. Similarly, taco night or Chinese food night used to mean buying a taco or Chinese food kit, but nowadays it’s possible to get wide variety of authentic ingredients and experiment with all types of international recipes.
Image: Vintage Chun King ad via Ebay/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#ethnic-food-kits
McDonald’s Fried Apple PiesDeep fried apple pies that needed to cool for about an hour before they were fit to eat were the specialty that pushed McDonald’s past Burger King and Wendy’s for many kids. That changed in 1992, when McDonald’s replaced the fried pie with a baked one. There are websites that catalog locations that still have the fried kind, which seems kind of weird. But barring the possibility that you live near an outlet that stockpiled them, your kid will never know the joy of having every taste bud burned by the filling of a fried McDonald’s pie.
Make your own fried apple pies
Image: Brooklyn Supper/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#mcdonalds-fried-apple-pies
Popcorn from a Popcorn PopperThe microwave really killed the popcorn popper industry. Which is too bad because while it’s kind of interesting to watch a microwave popcorn bag expand, it’s super-fun (when you’re six, at least) to watch a popcorn popper barfing up popcorn.
Jell-O Pudding PopsJell-O Pudding Pops inspired rabid fandom back in the day, and since their demise in the early 90′s the lives of Pudding Pop devotees everywhere will never be the same. There are countless websites dedicated to the quest to bring them back,, or to recreating them at home. But the cold truth is, creamy, rich Pudding Pops as we knew them are gone forever. Sorry kids./family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#jell-o-pudding-pops
Grapefruit for BreakfastAfter the grapefruit diet fad of the 70s (spoiler alert: it didn’t work), half a grapefruit for breakfast was a big thing for a while. I used to eat grapefruit for breakfast when I was a kid, but I’d put a ton of sugar on it, which I think kind of defeats the purpose. Anyway, nowadays you rarely see grapefruit at breakfast buffets, although it does still make an occasional appearance as part of the balanced breakfast in cereal commercials.
Try a new take — broiled grapefruit!
Image: Jaime Mormann/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#grapefruit-for-breakfast
Jello ‘Salad’Making a gelatin-based dish and calling it a salad rather than a dessert is a trend straight out of the late-50s and early 60s. It still made its way onto plates occasionally in the 70s and 80s, but nowadays if you show up at a potluck, you probably won’t see one as this trend has run its course.
Feeling nostalgic? Make your own Jell-O salad with fresh fruit
Image: Julie Van Rosendaal/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#jello-salad
7-Layer DipSeven-layer dip is listed on a lot of sites as a food trend of the 80s, which was a surprise to me, because I still make this for sports-related occasions, like the Super Bowl. So I guess this is one that I’ll be embarrassing my kids with some day. It’s so good, though, it’s got to come back into style, right?
Make 7 layer dip in a jar
Image: Angie McGowan/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#7-layer-dip
Space Food SticksWhen a food’s history involves its development by engineers and tests performed in space to gauge “gastrointestinal compatibility,” you know that’s a food that’s not going to have a tough time commercially. And it did. The Space Food Stick, Pillsbury’s “non-frozen balance energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein” a forerunner to energy bars, was briefly popular in the 70s with some well-known athletes as fans, but ultimately, this food developed for astronauts couldn’t sell enough to make the leap to the mainstream like Tang did.
Thanks to the work of the Space Foods Sticks Preservation Society, you can get your own Space Food Sticks here.
Image: Funky Food Shop/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#space-food-sticks
Wonder BreadSoft and bland with a texture that becomes gummy the second it makes contact with any moisture, Wonder Bread was an unhealthy part childhoods beginning in the 1920s. It’s still on the market, of course, but sales have declined as consumers have switched to healthier and tastier options and production has declined in the 2000s. As a result, Wonder Bread is no longer the staple it once was.
Bun-less BurgersThe bunless burger is what future directors will use to establish that their movie is set in the early 2000s when everyone is on Atkins. I only briefly dabbled with Atkins, but the bunless burger was the height of Atkins craziness. Just order something else. With no bun, its not a burger.
Wheat GermWheat germ was a staple of “health food” fanatics of the 70s and 80s. Whatever its actual merits were, I think the idea eventually filtered down that adding wheat germ to foods made them healthy. I worked in a grocery store in college and remember a woman telling me she was buying wheat germ to add to General Tso’s chicken from a Chinese place in the same strip mall. The wheat germ probably didn’t hurt, but it was still deep fried chicken coated in a sauce with a ton of sugar. I don’t think kids today will grow up with the illusion that wheat germ can magically make something healthy.
Image: Keith Weller, USDA/family-kitchen/2012/07/27/15-food-memories-my-kids-wont-have/#wheat-germ
What about you? What are your favorite, or not so favorite, food memories?
Image: Laura Levy
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