Friday, August 16, 2013

You know you grew up in the 80s if you ate...

I admit I'm a sucker for those Buzzfeed lists like 50 Things Only '80s Kids Can Understand because they are so, so terrifyingly true.  Here is the food version.

You know you grew up in the 80s if you...

1. Got Cool Ranch Doritos and other weird-flavored salty snacks in your lunch box

Vintage bag
What the hell is Cool Ranch? I don't know but when they came out with exotic blue bags of Doritos, they were THE hot thing to have in your lunch box. Did they taste any different from the Doritos in the red bag?  I don't think so, but it didn't matter.

Honorable mention to Combos pizza-flavored processed cheese stuffed pretzels as 80s vintage food. The commercial always said that it 'cheeses your hunger away.'  I'm not sure if cheese is a verb but even as a relatively piggy kid, I admit that the salt/fat bomb of pretzels, cheese, and pepperoni pizza 'flavoring' was pretty satisfying.

When was the last time you ate these?
On another note, what was up with those packets of little crackers that came with a plastic red wand and cheese spread?  They never tasted really good, yet they were terribly fashionable.  I do admit to going through a phase of eating those cheese sandwich crackers with peanut butter, though.

2. Thought sprinkles were a food group

Ah, the 80s...exotic ice cream flavors were for the adults and most kid's ice cream was some combination of chocolate and vanilla and the occasional artificial strawberry.  And no one was making frozen yogurt smoothies with green tea and fruit...instead we ate ice cream sandwiches, Chipwiches, Good Humor Bars, Carvel frozen custard with chocolate sprinkles and ice cream cakes with crunchies wedged in them. The whole point was that the ice cream LOOKED cool, like a toy. Which was almost as cool as getting a toy with your food, like you did at McDonald's

The symmetry is breath-taking

Of course, the very best was to get ice cream AT McDonald's with a toy.  I remember the comedian Margaret Cho doing a routine which contained the line: "you know you have an eating disorder if you order DESSERT at McDonald's."  Well, then all of us did in the 80s!

3. Thought McDonald's was kinda a health food

Well, they did sponsor the Olympics and had those cool games in which you could win prizes!  Also, my elementary school allowed us to order in McDonald's once a week, so it couldn't be that bad. Heck, we all went to McDonald's after athletic events and EVERYONE ate it--yes, all of the skinny kids, and there were no 'healthy' sliced apple choices, either.

At school, I usually got Chicken McNuggets and was always comforted in my darkest hours as a schoolroom outcast by the fact that the nuggets always had the same, predictable shapes.  My favorite was the one shaped like the boot of Italy.

I actually thought I was the only person who noticed this and then I encountered the Internet.
Despite the fact I am probably still digesting some dipping sauce in a corner of my small intestine, I do have to note that McDonald's had way cooler, high-quality Happy Meal toys back then that I wish I had saved.

Wish I'd saved these! As durable and colorful as one of the hamburger patties!

4. Got rewarded with pizza as a class for being good in school

Pizza party!  No need to justify it with salad!

It's totally okay to reward kids with food for reading and stuff!

5. Ate brown sugar and s'mores-flavored Pop Tarts

No frosting?  How austere!
I began eating Pop Tarts in blueberry and strawberry flavors as a kid (and was perplexed by the availability of unfrosted Pop Tarts. Why would you EVER forgo frosting)? Gradually, flavors grew more and more artificial as I grew up.  For awhile, the cool thing was to have a hot Pop Tart in the morning and then a cold tart later for a snack, for textural contrast. I eventually 'aged out' of Pop Tarts when they started packing them 8 to a box versus 6, which is probably a good thing.

6. Your parents gave you Fruit-Roll Ups and Quaker Granola Bars as healthy snacks

They came in a multi-flavored box and I always ate the chocolate first.
No one really liked the Fruit Roll-Ups but my, they came in such bright colors! And the Quaker Granola Bars in the peanut butter flavor (the natural kind) and the chewy chocolate chip (the not-so-natural kind) were awesome and tasted almost as good as candy.  Because, um, they were, kinda.

7. Ate cereal that came with prizes...and poured whole milk on it...

For extra credit, name the cereals

I was never that into drinking straight-up milk,even as a kid, but I know some kids would use a bendy straw to slurp up the sugar-sweetened milk.

Once, at a British bed-and-breakfast, I was served corn flakes.  I had only recently arrived in the UK and I wondered: "what is it about these simple corn flakes that tastes so delicious?"  Then I realized it was the whole milk...which I hadn't had since I was nine.

I now forgo cereal entirely but have abandoned skim milk.

8.  Ate lots of peanut butter 

80s Gold
Either Skippy or Jif.  No natural stuff, no almond butter.  Reece's Peanut Butter cups and Reece's Pieces (thanks to E.T.) were more valuable than money.

9.  Baked using this.  And you ALWAYS made a golden cake with milk chocolate frosting, never chocolate with white frosting or chocolate frosting
I didn't even know you could buy flour as a kid!

10. Found that despite eating all of this crap, on the whole most of you and your friends were thinner than kids today

Much like the French Paradox, the 80s Paradox continues to be a subject of debate amongst parents and dieticians alike.


  1. Oooh, I wish I had those Peanuts glasses. I still have two Looney Tunes glasses from the early 70s, one with Wile E. Coyote and one with Henery Hawk. My mom tells me there was also a Sylvester the Cat glass that got broken at some point, the knowledge of which kills me a little.

    A few years ago, McDonald's had Shrek glasses so I went there specifically to buy Donkey and Puss in Boots. I really liked them but they were quickly recalled because the enamel contained toxic metal. I returned them, but I suspect they still aren't as bad for you as a McRib.

    1. I agree, flurrious--it is amazing how 'really' nice the glasses are in relation to the quality of the food.

      The Looney Tunes glasses sound equally awesome! I think they sell Welch grape jelly in cartoon-themed glass jars, still. If the jelly had even a single natural ingredient, I might be tempted to buy it.

  2. My theory re food in the 80's and why it did not make kids fat is those foods were made without high fructose corn syrup but with real fat. Now its HFCS and fake fat. The latter makes the food less satisfying, the former makes us want to eat more of it.

    I used to use Manwich a lot. It had all "natural" ingredients before natural was cool. Now it is full of all kinds of crap.

    1. I totally agree about the HFCS--it is the only way I can fully explain it--yes, kids were more active then, but there is only so many calories even a hyperactive child can burn in a day. I think food has been engineered to make people 'want more' which is convenient for sales but bad for health.

      I don't think I have ever had a sloppy joe/Manwich but I wanted to as a kid!

  3. Man, this list makes me feel like an odd outsider :).
    I hate sprinkles, and we never had combos when I was a kid, but we are a cheez whiz family (mmm.... cheez whiz). The boot chicken mcnugget was the best! I had a cousin (well I guess I still do) who used to break open every chicken mcnugget and only eat the ones that were white meat (that might have accounted for the shapes) as there were always 3 white, 3 dark meat (he's still stupid picky about food).
    Pizza parties are still the best but at home we only ate McDonalds as a treat, maybe once a month.
    I hate pop tart frosting! BOO! Then again, I also don't like toasted pop tarts *eye roll.* And to top it off my favourite cereals were Raisin Bran and Shreddies, so I rarely got toys :).
    Great post, made me laugh :).

    1. Not weird at all to not like super-sweet cereal, sprinkles, and Pop Tarts--it just shows that you had a refined, not-too-sweet palate as a kid!

      I feel so supported in my love of the boot chicken nugget right now! I'm so glad I wasn't the only weird person who noticed the nuggets had predictably different shapes!

  4. I was born in the 80s but mostly grew up in the 90s...and most of this is all still true! Eerily so. It's crazy how they always get these lists SO right.

  5. I grew-up in the 80's too. I remember each and every one of these foods (sigh).