Velveeta, Fizzies and Spam: Foods From My Childhood

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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  1. I forever lost my love of pop tarts after getting sick in high school one morning. When you’re in a hallway packed with students, the only contents of your stomach some roiling cherry pop tarts trying to make their escape, your love dies very quickly.

    Food that I will love forever: chipped beef in “SOS”. It’s meat in a jar, and my Nan cooked it in milk gravy with hard boiled egg, and served it hot on toast. Comfort on a plate, my friend. I have no idea what chipped beef actually is, only that I haven’t yet been able to find it in New Jersey.

    There were also Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and my favorite, Cookie Crisp. Cookies? For Breakfast? I’m so in.

  2. My mom wouldn’t buy any of that for me! I didn’t have mac and cheese from the blue box until a sleepover in 7th grade! The only packaged foods I remember eating were Keebler Pecan Sandies and once in a while she would buy me a box of Fruity Pebbles.

  3. Hahaha! My mother made grilled cheese sandwiches the very same way, except whe would spread Crisco directly onto the bread and there was no mayo inside.
    OL! Thanks for taking me back!

  4. Oh yes, I’ve eaten quite a few of these growing up. I wish I could remember more but I can’t think of any off the top of my head right now!

  5. Ah, yes…Velveeta and Fizzies! Yep, Velveeta must have been a 1950’s staple in many of our homes! I also did the Fizzies on the tongue thing for quite a while.. and lived through it! Spam was never a part of our experience, though… We were a Taylor Pork Roll family (see Casey’s previous post!). One other crazy indulgence…eating powdered Jell-O right out of the box… what kind of sugar high did that produce? And Nik-L-Nips…sugar water in tiny wax bottles; we chewed the wax like gum afterward. ENOUGH!!

  6. My sister and I also did the bologna thing, but it was fried on the griddle in butter and served on white bread with plenty of yellow mustard!
    My father introduced us as toddlers to the peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwich. Good times!

  7. we did not eat most of these things either, but we did sometimes have the tv dinners in the little trays… turkey and dressing and fish were my two favorites. really liked those little bright green peas!

  8. Tv dinners were always a treat that I looked forward to (our parents got off easy in those days!). That together with ” Saturday Night At The Movies” and my life was complete

  9. Little Debbie snack cakes. We didn’t have many sweet things in the house, so these were a special treat. Oh, and Fluff (I think it was called) marshmellows in a jar!

  10. I’m with you on Tang, Pop Tarts and those lil marshmallows in the Lucky Charms. Other childhood faves: Yodels (on the east coast) and Cheese (Cheez?) Doodles (also east coast!).

  11. I used to love Ritz crackers topped with Muenster cheese. And Bugles (are those crunchy things still sold in stores?). And yes, I admit it, Velveeta cheese (never met a dairy product I didn’t like, though now I tend to eat goat cheese or Brie or feta instead of processed grocery store cheese).

    1. Oh, Susan, Ritz and cheese – have I got a post for you. I bet you’re on the edge of your seat! And yes, Bugles are still around. Did you ever put them on your fingers to make claws?

  12. This cracks me up. Yes, velveta. Yes, pop tarts. Yes, lucky charms. Yes, bologna (on white bread and smothered with homemade red pasta sauce). Seriously, try it.

    I also ate PB&J pretty much every day for lunch from K-12.

    Did anyone else use and ice pick to poke a hole in the coke bottle top so that you could drink it even though the bottle looked closed?

    And I’m with Living Large … anything Little Debbie is pretty nostalgic around here.

  13. This piece was a blast to write because so many of my childhood memories are wrapped up in food. The pages of my childhood books, most of which I still have, are dotted with remnants of the chocolate shakes I used to make.

    Loved Bugles. And my mom bought potato chips in a big can. It was heaven. There might still be a can (empty, I hope) in the bottom of her cupboards.

    One oddity I didn’t include: peanut butter and mayo sandwiches. Where this originated I have no idea.

    Loved Ritz crackers, though we had that lovely cheese that came out of a can. Cheese Whiz…?

  14. This is a riot. I don’t know Fizzies, but all the other ones, yes. Though I have to say that Lucky Charms just never did it for me. Now, if we’re talking Apple Jacks…Oy, I’m so happy that this stuff has moved out of my actual life and into nostalgia.

  15. This takes me back. My mom would put chocodiles in my lunch. I don’t think they even make those anymore. Chocodiles are twinkies covered in chocolate. Mmmm. I think I’d be sick to my stomach if I ate one now….

    1. My Kids Eat Squid, I had no idea that a chocodile ever existed. I MUST make a homemade version of those, just for you.

  16. I loved poptarts as a kid too. And some of this other, uh, food. The sad thing is that it’s so unhealthy and so, uh, not food? My kids are growing up on fruits and vegetables. Maybe I’m depriving them of all those memories? Ding Dongs were among my faves. And Apple Jax that turned the milk pink. I cringe as I write this. I loved it but I wish I hadn’t eaten that stuff (and I am now suffering the health consequences of having done so…)

  17. What a great idea for a post. Love it. And Tang — hadn’t thought of that stuff in years. I grew up with the Aussie equivalent of some of this junky stuff and have fond memories of it too. Especially the “lollies” (candy) of my youth, which you can’t find here.

  18. Ah, Jane- even though I spent my earliest years in New Orleans, and lived two blocks form my grandmother who spent most of her days in the kitchen cooking real Creole -what is called today “slow food”, one of my fondest early foods was Velveeta on saltine crackers with strawberry jam…

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