In preparing for this short list, I put together a sort of all-encompassing list. I was incredibly stringent on my choices, only choosing items that I ate on a regular basis and truly craved as a kid and not just items that everyone remembers, but I rarely ate or drank, like Crystal Pepsi or Nintendo Cereal. Even then I came up with enough for three lists. From that list I picked five that represented a good smattering of foods that I would eat as a youngster, and yearn to enjoy even now.
So without further ado, here's the list!
5. Super Mario Bros. Shapes Kraft Dinner
Introduced in 1937, Kraft Dinner became instantly popular as it was a quick and easy meal to make that was like, or at least advertised as, a nutritious home-cooked meal. During World War II its popularity rose immensely because of shortages of meat, milk and eggs.
It has become the brunt of many a Canadian joke over the years, but I will not deny my love for KD. This is one of those foods that you can find in just about any Canadian's cupboards at any time, and especially mine. I always have a box or two on standby, should the mood arise.
Back around 1975 Kraft began trying out different shaped noodles, such as the spiral noodle. In 1988 we saw the emergence of the wheel-shaped KD, which in a lot of ways was the precursor to the KD I'm about to talk about.
With the 80s and 90s bursting forth with all sorts of different foods marketed towards children, Kraft wouldn't be outdone, as they introduced noodles shaped like different cartoon characters such as Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny (pictured above as I couldn't find an image for the Super Mario KD). I think there may have been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles variant as well, but I may be mistaken. The one that caught my attention when I was a kid, however, was Super Mario Bros. Kraft Dinner.
Why SMB? I can't specifically tell you. You see, all of these different shape Kraft Dinner's tasted exactly the same! There was no difference. I remember them being different from the regular KD formula. The noodles always seemed firmer than the regular noodles. Also, and this may just be jumbled up memories on my part, I think the cheese sauce was a little different as well. Probably not, though.
I think the reason I wanted them so much was because I wasn't a big KD fan when I was a kid. I had a major hate on for any cheese that wasn't mozzarella on pizza back then (thank you TMNT), and even to this day I'm not a big cheese fan. The trick of making the KD look like different cartoon heroes from my childhood completely worked on me, and I wanted to eat SMB KD like a mad man (mad boy?).
I think the allure of Super Mario Bros. KD was the fact that I rarely saw food that was Nintendo-related. I'm not sure if this KD was an off-shoot of the Saturday morning cartoons based around the Super Mario World or not, but that didn't matter. To date I'd seen, and very briefly I may add, Nintendo Cereal, as well as Pac-Man Cereral, and that was pretty much it as far as video game food was concerned. Whatever it was, if there was food out there that was based on a Nintendo game that I loved, I just ate that shit up, quite literally.
Click here for a glorious 80s/90s commercial!
4. Snow White Cream Soda
Here's one that I can imagine very few people have ever had, or remember. In fact, I tried to search for any kind of advertisements I could find for this particular brand of cream soda, and of course found very little. I was shocked, however, to actually find an image of several cans, one of which is actually Snow White Cream Soda. It's on the top right of the image. I know it's grainy, but it'll have to do.
There isn't too much I can say about this except that it was by far the best cream soda I've ever had, and I actually still to this day, drink cream soda on occasion, no matter how girly that pink stuff is!
I actually find cream soda in general to be a dying breed of pop. I generally only see Crush's pink variety these days, and occasionally Crush's clear version, which is the same as the pink stuff, just without the dye from what I can tell.
Whatever the case, Snow White destroyed them all. I think it came out in the 60s and virtually vanished from most places within the next 20 years, but in the late 80s, early 90s we could still get it at random corner stores in my neck of the woods, Nova Scotia. What made it so amazing? This stuff actually tasted like cream. All other cream sodas have a taste that is similar and distinguishes them, and I suppose you could call it cream-esque, but somehow this particular cream soda actually tasted like something I would call cream and it felt smooth going down. I dunno if it was more syrup than carbonation and I may never know, but although it was clearly pop, Snow White Cream Soda tasted and felt like you were truly tasting a cream-themed soda for the first time.
3. McDonald's Pizza
When I started thinking of items for this list I did whatever I could do avoid short-lived fads. This included variations of Coke or Pepsi, random candy and all sorts of different stuff. There are two reasons that McPizza (I don't think they ever marketed it as McPizza, but I'm calling it that for ease) makes it on here, despite being so incredibly temporary on McDonald's menu.
For one thing, how can a child of the 80s/90s make a list about forgotten foods without incorporating McDonald's? I mean, these guys had the best commercials, ads and foods that any kid craved like crack cocaine. I mean, they marketed the shit with a damned clown!
Secondly, and more importantly, when I was a kid and McPizza was available, I ate nothing else at McDonald's. I couldn't get enough of this stuff. I remember it now as being very saucy, and the sauce, although having no discernible veggies in it, being very chunky. The cheese was sparse, and I think mostly was like a parmesan and the pepperonis were few and far between, and heavily spiced. I believe I remember the crust as being crunchy but practically non-existent.
I grew up in a town where pizza is practically a religion, with all kinds of people finding themselves in different denominations based on pizzeria. So why would I find such a generic form of this glorious food so amazing? Well, that goes back to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They made pizza a world-wide phenomenon in the 90s. Like I said, in my hometown pizza is a big thing, so with that and the old TMNT cartoon pimping the pizza out like mad, I couldn't get enough of the stuff. So combine my love for pizza, TMNT and any child's lust for McDonald's and you have an insane winning combination.
So, why didn't the stuff last? Well, pizza isn't that quick to cook. Although I go to different pizza places today that can have you a pizza ready in about 7 minutes (Little Caesars may be shit, but it's cheap and quick) back then people went to McDonald's for fast food. That means order and receive. The pizza, however, took longer to prepare. Also, I would get personal pizza combos when I went, but I don't think the idea of ordering pizza from McDonald's like a Pizza Hut or something like that really took off. It's a shame, because I truly remember enjoying the stuff.
This is a very grainy commercial for McDonald's Pizza, but it is actually from a Nova Scotian station, ATV!
2. Lipton Alligator/Big Foot Soup
When I made this list I knew that it would be hard to find some documentation for a few of these items. In fact I was fully prepared to find nothing to substantiate my claims that Snow White Cream Soda ever existed. I did not, however, expect to have a hard time finding at least some pictures of Lipton Alligator or Big Foot Soups! I could find nothing in the form of a picture or a video about the delicious dry-packaged goodness that these soups embodied, but I will soldier on.
Like most of the items on this list, I find it hard to truly explain the exact flavours or consistencies of the foods I'm writing about. I'm sort of banking on the fact that maybe the readers of this list remember what I'm talking about as well, or that I can describe something in comparison to what they taste like. For this one, it may be tricky.
First you'd have to know Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup (which I'm certain you do - it's pictured above as I couldn't find an image for Lipton Alligator/Bigfoot Soup), or Cup-A-Soup. Much like Kraft Dinner, this is soup that consists of dried noodles and a dried soup stock (in KD's case, cheese powder) that can be boiled in water to make the meal. To this day I still eat Lipton Soup on a regular basis, although I'm moreover a Campbell's soup man. The one soup that Lipton made when I was a kid that I couldn't get enough of was Alligator Soup.
Really all it was was chicken noodle soup with noodles shaped like little alligators. I distinctly recall it tasting different, though. The noodles, first off, much like the KD shapes, were always firmer, no matter how much you boiled them. They could almost be downright chewy. The broth, although yellow an clearly chicken based, seemed different to me, and I recall there being a lot of some kind of green floaty in the mix. Possibly some kind of dried green onion? I really don't know. It came in the standard Lipton soup box, only instead of red (for chicken noodle) it was green. I don't recall the Bigfoot soup as much, but I know it also existed. It was exactly the same, I think, only with foot shaped noodles as opposed to alligators. I always leaned on the alligator side, as I recall, so I rarely ate the Bigfoot variety.
There's a noodle out now, it might be a Lipton Sidekick (which might make sense), but I can't recall which kind it is, that reminds me totally of Lipton Alligator Soup. It might be the chicken and broccoli version. I really can't remember right now, and probably should've looked into it, but it won't matter. If you haven't had it then you unfortunately don't know the glory within, and my musings here are lost on ye.
1. Hostess Barbecue Chips
The mother of all my childhood snack foods, this list could not have been compiled without speaking about the greatest potato chip ever invented, the Hostess BBQ (I'm going to abbreviate barbecue to BBQ for ease) chip.
Hostess was the primary potato chip seller in Canada for many years. Although chips made up a very small wing of the Hostess foods company, their chips were easily the most popular throughout the Canadas and began many of the conventions you see today with potato chips, such as different colours on the bags to identify the different flavours (most of which are used by all the company's existing now). They also created the chip flavours that are popular today such as sour cream and onion, dill pickle and ketchup. They even tried some fruit flavoured chips, like grape and orange and cherry, which flopped instantly. Actually they created the flavours I mentioned above directly after their fruit-flavoured line fell.
Unfortunately big business came into town and destroyed that which I held most dear. Hostess was purchased by Frito Lay in the early 90s. They then began selling their different brands such as Doritos, Ruffles and Cheetos. Doritos would replace Hostess's Mexitos rather quickly, but their other brands could not take down the mighty Hostess giant. It wasn't until the mid-90s when Frito Lay began marketing their Lay's potato chips with huge hockey stars like Mark Messier and Eric Lindros. In time Hostess was considered a sort of "low end" chip, in comparison to Lay's new line and over time was re-branded and replaced with Lay's.
If Lay's had adopted the Hostess flavours I don't think this would have bothered me as much as it did, but that was not the case. Their flavours seemed dulled. There wasn't enough on the chips. I didn't wince when I ate salt and vinegar. I didn't need to wash my hands for an hour after a brawl with a bag of ketchup. Most importantly, BBQ no longer meant hot and spicy. No, now it meant sweet, like a barbecue sauce. To say it hurt my very soul would be an understatement.
Hostess BBQ chips were the perfect blend of hot and not too spicy. When Lay's took over, they adopted a sweet barbecue flavour and so did most of the other chip companies in an attempt to combat the giant. Hostess chips would live for a very short time afterwards, usually coming out as specialty items for a short period, and I would always take this as a chance to relive their deliciousness, however I would have to sate my voraciousness for a truly BBQ flavoured chip with the likes of Humpty Dumpty (my now reigning fave, which could also be slowly dying) and some different "no-name" varieties. After a time, Lay's released a "Hot Barbecue" flavour, but it wasn't even close to the same. I find it too salty and I can only eat a handful at a time.
You want to know what upsets me most about this whole thing? Not that Hostess was taken over and removed from the market. Not that Lay's made a crappy chip, and just about everyone else in the market followed suit. The thing that stings the very most is that, apparently, HOSTESS CHIPS STILL EXIST.
Yes, in researching for this article I came across some news that startled my very core. That image you see at the top of this article is the current brand of Hostess chips. And look! There's BBQ!
Although they were beaten, they were not completely killed, and apparently they are still sold at select Price Chopper and Food Basics low-end grocery stores. For all these years, I could have been eating Hostess BBQ chips, and I was raped of that chance! I can remember the last time I had a bag. Cole and I went to rent our favourite video game, which we had at this point mastered, Final Fantasy 3 (it was 3 to us, damnit!). In the video store we grabbed our customary bottles of Coke and went to the chip isles to find that there was a mysterious, limited time offering of Hostess BBQ chips. Much to our excitement we got to not only enjoy one of our favourite rentals from the SNES, but also got to have our fave chips and pop combo one last time (at least for me).
So, I can tell you that I am now on the hunt for Hostess BBQ chips, and nothing will stop me, short of a lack of Price Choppers in my geographical region. I will taste these astonishing chips from my childhood once more!