For this edition of Retro Ramblings, we’re jumping in the time machine to revisit another junk food lost love of mine. We’re going to take a look at one of the more interesting breakfast foods of the late ’80s and early ’90s…Oatmeal Swirlers. Do you remember this? It seems like the split between people who remember it, and those who don’t is 50/50. If you remember it, enjoy this trip down memory lane. If you don’t remember it, get ready for a quick education.
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 made a 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.
While I don’t even faintly remember how it tasted, I do remember how much fun breakfast was on those mornings. I can remember almost being excited about going to bed on those nights when I knew that Oatmeal Swirlers was going to be for breakfast the next day. Sadly, like so many other favorite foods of my youth, this one bit the dust far too early. For a long time after it vanished from the shelves, I missed it terribly. Time went on and other breakfast novelties came along to take its place, but it certainly left its mark on me to this day I wish I could pick up another box of this stuff and share it with the kiddos.
Now, some people will tell you that you can duplicate the magic yourself using various kinds of oatmeal and jellies. But I disagree. The magic was how it all came together. The low-quality oatmeal, the over-sweet “jelly” in its plastic pouch, and the simple, yet beautiful design of the box. You can’t replicate shit like that. I’m not even going to try.