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 10 foods you’ll probably remember and your kids will probably never have.
1. TV Dinners
The 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.
Sure, 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.
3. Pop Rocks
General 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?
4. McDonald’s Fried Apple Pies
Deep-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. (via Babble)
5. Popcorn From a Popcorn Popper
The 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.
6. Jell-O Pudding Pops
Jell-O Pudding Pops inspired rabid fandom back in the day, and since their demise in the early ’90s, 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.
7. Grapefruit for Breakfast
After 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.
8. 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. (via Babble)
9. 7-Layer Dip
Seven-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?
10. Wonder Bread
Soft 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.
What about you? What are your favorite, or not so favorite, food memories?