Kids who came along in the early ’90s and later can have their Hunt’s Snack Packs, or their Swiss Miss from the dairy aisle. For me, the king of the hill when it came to pre-packaged pudding was Del Monte’s Chocolate Pudding in the can. Not a plastic cup, but in the little metal can! Scientists can conduct all the experiments they want to determine what effects tin and plastic packaging have on the taste of packaged food, but I can save them a little time and sum it for them in one sentence. It just tasted better out of the can! Period. End of story.
Of course, fond memories, nostalgia, and many, many years of time can mislead the brain when it comes to reality. Maybe it wasn’t the metal can that made it taste better. It could have been the fact that I would get this fantastic little treat when visiting my grandmother. She always kept a large supply on hand, because she had 16 grandchildren, and every one of us was fans of these little cans of chocolate heaven. More times than I can even start to remember, my cousins and I would sit on her front porch indulging in the magic of those little cans of pudding while talking about important subjects of the day like He-Man, Transformers, and the latest issue of Batman.
When I was sick and out of school, that meant a day at Grandma’s to recuperate. And on those days, you were treated to not one, but TWO cans of Del Monte Chocolate pudding. One with lunch, and an extra one “just because” later in the afternoon. You pair those cans of pudding with some Tropicana orange juice out of its glass bottle, and a can of Chicken Noodle soup, you had a remedy for sickness better than anything a doctor could prescribe.
Nowadays, you can always run to the store to pick up a 4-pack of pudding in cheap plastic cups, but you’ll not find that incredible taste that you could enjoy when you popped a top on a can of Del Monte back in the day.
If you’ve ever read much of what I’ve written, you should know by now that food is one of the more nostalgic things in my life. I can tie so many great memories to different foods, meals, and restaurants that I could probably do this whole blog focusing just on food. So in keeping with that tradition, I want to talk just a minute about one of the great loves of my life…cereal!
Unlike so many girls who broke my heart in my teenage years, cereal rarely ever let me down. Sure, there were the ones I picked on looks alone just to find out there was no substance inside, but we’ve all made that mistake a time or two. But for the most part, cereal was always there when we needed them. Well, until they were pulled from the market for various reasons. But enough about that. Let’s get on to a cereal I was in love with at one point in time.
Morning Funnies Cereal was produced by Ralston Cereals in 1988 & 1989. It was a super sweet cereal, bright in color and shaped like smiley faces. The taste and shape wasn’t the hook for this cereal though…..the box was. I know what you’re thinking. How could a box be better than what was inside? Well, because the box featured comic strips on the front and back panels! In addition, the back of the box featured a full-size flap that opened up and featured even more comics on the inside! It was nirvana for comic strip lovers. The company actually won an award in 1988 for “innovative packaging” for the fifth-panel design.
The comics featured were Dennis the Menace, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Hi and Lois, Family Circus, Luann, Marvin, Funky Winkerbean, and What A Guy!. Not a bad lineup, but still it left something to be desired when Garfield, Peanuts, and The Far Side were all the rage at the point this cereal was on the market.
The McDonald’s McDLT gets mentioned on its fair share of fondly remembered foods lists and for good reason. Of all the great, and horrible, things to ever grace the menu of McDonald’s, the McDLT was one of the best items they created.
It was a burger in similar size as Burger King’s Whopper sandwich and featured mostly the same ingredients. A quarter-pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese, pickles, and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun. The beauty of the McDLT though was it’s packaging. It came in one of McDonald’s signature styrofoam containers. But this one was slightly different. It featured two separate compartments instead of one.
On one side, the bottom bun and burger patty rested, while on the other was the rest of the toppings and the top bun. This allowed the hot parts to remain separate from the cold parts until you were ready to put it together and eat. And that was the brilliance of it all. A fresh-tasting McDLT when the hot patty met the cold toppings. What I could never figure out though, was why the slice of cheese was included on the cold side. To me, it would have made much more sense to put it on top of the patty on the hot side so it could get all melty. But apparently, I’m not a genius like the burger builders at McDonald’s.
It was released in the early ’80s to much fanfare but was eventually pulled in 1990 due to pressure from environmental groups protesting their use of the styrofoam containers. Once the divided container was gone, so was the magic of this burger. It was later re-released as the Big ‘n’ Tasty burger, but without the separated ingredients, the burger fell flat.
I was very fortunate that my Mom didn’t work when I was growing up. My Dad made a good living and she was able to stay at home and raise us kids for the most part. At two different points, she took jobs and only worked for 6 weeks at each, so for 99% of my childhood, she was always home. This meant that every morning before school, she was up early and making home-cooked breakfast for the family. Most days that consisted of eggs and toast, or biscuits and gravy, and sometimes her home-cooked oatmeal.
On the rare occasion when she or one of us had something going on early, she would turn to something quick like frozen pancakes or waffles or cereal. My favorite of the quick breakfast options, however, was instant oatmeal. I loved Quaker Maple Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal. It was a staple of my breakfast diet then, and it still is now. No other instant oatmeal could touch it in my eyes. That is until I first saw a commercial for General Mills’ Oatmeal Swirlers.
It was instant oatmeal that came with a squeeze pack of what I guess would be best described as jelly. You could squeeze out smiley faces, or words, or even play tic tac toe with the pack. It was awesome. When this stuff hit the market it took instant oatmeal to a whole new level.
In 1990, McDonald’s gave into demands from the EPA and ceased using their clam shell polystyrene containers to package their food. I for one have always missed those containers for a variety of reasons, and started feeling nostalgic for them. Here’s a short and unofficial visual guide to a few of those containers, and a couple of others, for no other reason that I think they are cool to look at, and seeing them brings back a lot of old memories.