Every day when I was in first through fourth grade, I would open up my Looney Tunes lunchbox and pull out a turkey and cheese sandwich that my mother had lovingly squished together that morning. Between disheartened munches of my sandwich, I would glare jealously over at the “lucky kids” whose mothers — who I swore loved them more than my mother loved me — had stuffed their brown paper bags full of Gushers, Hostess Cupcakes and miniature cans of Cactus Cooler. Those kids existed in a lunch time world entirely separate from my own. These highly desired snacks gave rise to a ruthless, elitist underground snack trading ring where only those with the most artificially colored, sugar-saturated and/or cheesiest foods could participate. Kids did their best impressions of a poker face in order to trade their bags of Doritos for what could amount to two Twinkies and a Ring Pop — if they were lucky.
Every once in a while, though, I could partake in these lunchtime activities. With enough begging, I could occasionally cajole my mother into buying what all the “cool kids” were eating — meaning the foods we were persuaded to buy after the garish, flashy commercials that played between episodes of SpongeBob and Fairly Odd Parents. I took full advantages of these opportunities and threw all the snacks I could ever want into the cart. The calorie-laden days after these shopping excursions were always the best as I gorged myself on Ding Dongs and Funions galore.
In remembrance of these oh-so-tasty snacks from my childhood, I decided to sit down with some friends and retry these old lunchtime favorites to see if they lived up to what we remembered.
What was once a delightful burst of fruity goodness is now just a lukewarm gooey mess. The novelty of something that released ridiculously sweet juice was wondrous. But now, the filling inside of Gushers seems strangely reminiscent of fake blood. If you’ve ever made fake blood, you’ll know that it is made with cornstarch, corn syrup and red food coloring. Looking at the ingredients of Gushers, they’re strikingly similar.
Ritz Cheese and Crackers
These were definitely the scariest things to eat on the list. I could hardly believe that there was a time when I actively sought out these things. Cheese that has been sitting around in a little vacuum-sealed container for months on end can hardly be good — or good for you. It’s like room-temperature, perpetually melted cheese. Unsettling. Very unsettling.
We searched long and hard for these little guys, but they were nowhere to be found. Upon a quick Google search, we found, to our dismay, that our beloved Yogos had been discontinued just a few years before. We will surely miss these itty-bitty yogurt-covered fruit balls. It was probably for the best, though, that Kellogg discontinued them — that way, their yumminess can live on in our memories, untouched by current eating standards.
Fruit by the Foot
This is basically an extremely long, brightly colored, unhealthy fruit leather with good advertising. Was it the taste or the challenge of eating 3 feet of “fruit” that enticed us when we were little? We have no idea, but we do know that the excitement of eating something so long has worn off. The fun jokes and trivia on the wrapper are still good, though, surprisingly enough.
We don’t know why these were ever popular. They are just strange, tiny slices of ham, cheese and some crackers. Perhaps we realized this when we were young, too. But what Lunchables could not promise in taste, it could promise in cool factor with its compact size and bright colors. When you brought a Lunchable to school, people knew you were the hippest kid on this side of the playground. Now, if you brought a Lunchable to class, you would probably feel like a giant eating a lunch stolen from a normal-sized person. And it wouldn’t even be a good lunch.
Contact Nora Harhen at [email protected].