I love reminiscing about the '90s, and I love food, so thinking about my favorite childhood treats brings me great pleasure. It occurred to me today, though, that there were some really weird things about our '90s snack foods, some of which would probably never fly today. As an adult, I'm looking at the health quality and nutritional value of my food, how long it will keep me satiated, and whether or not it will photograph well for Instagram. In the '90s, I don't think any of these things mattered all that much.
Sure, certain things haven't changed: Advertisers are still using bright colors, funny characters, and clever marketing to appeal to imaginative children, and presentation is still key. It's like when moms use the old "Here comes the choo-choo train!" bit to get their kids to eat — they're trying to make lunchtime fun. But these days, parents are paying more attention to other things as well, like labels and ingredients, often favoring the snacks that are organic, gluten-free, and so on.
Forget about your Annie's Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks for a minute and think back to some of your favorite eats of the '90s. Does anyone else besides me find these things a little odd?
1. Food Pretending To Be Other Food
Exhibit A: French Toast Crunch Cereal. Is it French toast? Is it cereal? Who knows? This isn't the only cereal we've seen that was another food in disguise. Let's not forget Cookie Crisp and Oreo O's, two purchases that made it totally acceptable to have dessert for breakfast. And they were delicious.
2. Food As Toys
Looking back, why did we have so much fun putting Bugles on our fingertips and then wiggling them around? Why were we so obsessed with the shapes punched into our Fruit Roll-Ups? And finally, the question that has lingered since our '90s youth: Did we eat String Things because they tasted good... or because we liked to tie them up and swing them in the air like little lassos?
3. Packaging Is Sometimes The Best Part
I imagine the marketing and advertising execs of the '90s sitting around a giant table planning their next move, when the bald guy seated at the head makes a startling and slightly devious declaration: "I know! Make the packaging fun and kids will beg their parents for it, regardless of what it actually tastes like! Muaha!" Don't believe me? Just look at your '90s bubble gum options. It came as tape; it came in a jug; and those were the best parts! You could've given me the empty jug and I would've had hours of fun even without the gum.
4. The Fact That We Really Didn't Care About What We Were Actually Ingesting
Parents these days are more informed about the snack choices for their children, but I don't think we gave a rat's patootie in the '90s. Come to think of it, we weren't particularly interested in being informed about our snack choices, either. My, how the times do change.
5. All Of The Cartoony Spokespeople
Kool Aid Man always kind of scared the bejeezus out of me, and I don't care what anyone says — the genie on the Sprinkle Spangles cereal box was definitely up to something. Some of the characters seemed harmless enough; I'm pretty sure others were plotting against us. Just sayin'.
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