Velveeta, Fizzies and Spam: Foods From My Childhood

Guest Contributor

by Guest Contributor on July 13, 2011

Today’s guest post from entertainment writer Jane Boursaw of Reel Life with Jane straps us into the wayback machine to relive the oh-so-healthy snacks foisted upon us as kids. Some of us might even ‘fess up to eating these things as adults, yes?

I’m a very nostalgic person. So much so that my current career as a syndicated family movie and TV columnist was fueled by many hours spent watching TV in my formative years. We’re talking Gunsmoke, Star Trek, My Three Sons, Hogan’s Heroes, and My Favorite Martian. Dick Van Dyke, Green Acres, Get Smart, and Petticoat Junction. And let’s not forget The Swamp Fox and Charlie the Lonesome Cougar on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color every Sunday night.

And thanks to that new invention called The TV Dinner, which spawned The TV Tray, now we could actually watch TV and eat our Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and bright green peas, each nestled safely in its own compartment on that lovely aluminum tray. Thank you, Swanson!

lucky charms, marshmallows
Like the ever-expanding Technicolor realm of television-based entertainment, the snack food aisle at the supermarket was swelling with new, curious and exciting fare. Come along with me as I amble down memory lane and take a look at some of my favorite, uh, foods from childhood.

  • Velveeta. It’s never a good sign when you can’t find the ingredients of a product on its home page. In fact, the Information Superhighway yielded precious little in the way of nutritional info for this velvety-smooth pasteurized processed cheese food. But no matter. All I know is the yellow stuff holds a special place in my childhood memories. My mom made grilled cheese sandwiches with it every Sunday night, planting it between two slices of Wonder Bread slathered in mayo, then plopping the whole concoction into a Teflon pan on the stove. Ah, Velveeta goodness.
  • velveeta cheese, junk food

  • Fizzies. I wonder how many of these effervescent tablets I ingested before their cyclamate content got them outlawed in 1970. You were supposed to drop them into a glass of water and watch them fizzle away into a delicious beverage, but of course, I never took that route. I popped them directly into my mouth and let the crackly tabs burn a hole in my tongue. Fizzies made a short-lived resurgence in 1995 with aspartame replacing the cyclamates (because that was so much healthier), but that didn’t quite catch on and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Now, they’re trying one more time—this time with no sugar and extra Vitamin C!
  • Pop-Tarts. Several years ago, I wrote a story about Pop-Tarts for USA Weekend and discovered that the toaster pastry’s creator lived in the next county over from me here in northern Michigan! Not only that, but Kellogg sent me an entire case of Pop-Tarts, which still reigns supreme on my list of Best Press Packages ever. My love of the cheery pastry is forever tied to racing home from school, grabbing a foil-wrapped pack of two tarts out of the cupboard, and heading to my brother’s room to watch Gomer Pyle and The Monkees on his little TV. Ah, those were the days. My favorite Pop-Tarts: Chocolate Fudge and Brown Sugar Cinnamon.
  • pop tarts, breakfast, brown sugar cinnamon

  • Tang. What is Tang anyway? Interesting how so many of these beloved childhood foods are composed of mystery ingredients. The powdery breakfast drink showed up in 1956, but rocketed to greatness after it journeyed into space on John Glenn’s Mercury flight in 1962. And while the fluorescent orange-yellow substance might have boasted some nutritional value, it was never in the same league as Nestlé Quik powder eaten straight out of the can with a spoon.
  • Spam. Meat in a can has a certain appeal like no other. We ate a lot of Spam, usually sliced thick and fried up in a pan on the stove. Red Devil sandwich spread was another favorite. I have no idea what either of these products contained, and frankly, would rather remain blissfully ignorant. While cruising the grocery store for photos for this story, I found both Spam and deviled ham spread on the shelves, but was too frightened to look at the label.
  • spam, deviled ham

  • Bologna. Several varieties of this sandwich “meat” graced store shelves, but my mom always bought the plain round slices. Once in a while, she’d try and sneak in something different, perhaps a variety pack of olive loaf, pickle loaf and pimento loaf, but I’d have none of that nonsense. It was always plain bologna with ketchup on Wonder Bread for me. Yes, it was difficult to write that sentence.
  • Lucky Charms. Sure, this magically delicious cereal had a teensy bit of nutritional value, but it was always best if you ate only the pastel-colored Charms and left the grain in the box. And some extra sugar sprinkled on top was an absolute necessity, because cereals never had enough sugar back in those days.

Your turn! Tell me about some of your favorite foods from childhood in the comments below.

For more stories, reviews, and entertainment commentary from Jane Boursaw, visit her at Reel Life With Jane.

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