Breakfast at McDonald’s Has Always Been Special

I took my family on vacation this past week, and on the drive out of town the first morning, my mind started wandering while I was driving. The sun was up in the blue sky on a warm summer day, and I was headed down the highway. So my mind wandered back to many of the trips I took as a kid with my dad.

I’ve probably explained before but my dad traveled a lot when I was young, and in the summer, I would go on trips with him if he was only going to be gone for a couple of days. There was nothing quite like climbing into the front seat of his truck and pulling out on a sunny summer morning and hitting the road for the day.

It was the trips where we headed north that I really enjoyed, and that’s because we’d always stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. Now back in the mid to late 80s, the closest McDonald’s was 40 miles up the highway. While we had a McDonald’s just 12 miles south of us, we never stopped at it when we’d go south. But when going north we’d always stop. Can you imagine in today’s world not having a McDonald’s closer than 40 miles away?

The ad above represents the breakfast I remember from those days. Back then, they didn’t have biscuits on the menu yet, only the English muffins. I remember getting the Big Breakfast and enjoying the toasted English muffin with grape jelly. And I remember sitting there with my dad talking about the things we’d see along the route of the trip and feeling a lot bigger than I was. After breakfast was over I’d grab an extra coffee stirrer to play with in the truck, and we’d climb back in, push the Willie Nelson tape into the 8-track player, and hit the road again, with smiles on our faces.

Breakfast at McDonald’s always feels special to me. Even if I’m just hitting the drive-thru on my way to work in the mornings, there’s still a little magic in it thanks to those special stops years ago. And those are the memories that came back to me as we were rolling down the highway on vacation last week.

I’ll give you one guess as to where we stopped for breakfast.

O’Boisies Potato Chips

Those little Keebler elves have made a lot of tasty treats in their day.  Unfortunately, a lot of them left the shelves far too quickly.  O’Boisies, for me, is the primary example of this.  They hit the market in the mid-late ’80s and were gone by the early ’90s.

Keebler always tried to claim that O’Boisie’s weren’t a “chip”.  I’m not sure what they thought they were, but they were the finest example of a potato chip that I can think of.  The flavor in these things packed quite a punch.  It seemed like they had a higher salt content than other chips, and their main feature was little pockets of air baked into them.  This made them one of the crunchier chips I can recall….and when it comes to potato chips, I want them crunchy! 

You could get O’Boisies in Original, Sour Cream & Onion, and BBQ flavors.  I’ve never been a fan of BBQ chips, but I was all in on the other two flavors.  You could always find these chips in our pantry for an after-school snack, or a Saturday afternoon pick-me-up while playing Nintendo.  But my favorite memory of them is that my Mother and I would sit at night snacking on them while watching Nick at Nite when my Dad was out of town and my brother was at work.  And in recent years, she and I would mention them to one another and reflect back on those good times. 

Taco Bell’s Texas Taco Sandwich of 1995

The Texas Taco Sandwich hit the market in 1995 with a fun commercial starring Jack Palance. Palance was coming off a resurgence thanks to the movies City Slickers and City Slickers II, so he lent credibility to Taco Bell’s latest offering with a Texas flair. I was driving by the time this came out, so as soon as I saw the first commercials, I was making my run for the border to try one.

It featured Taco Bell’s traditional taco profile of seasoned ground beef or chicken, lettuce, and cheese, but also added diced tomatoes and a “special southwest sauce”. Some folks say they remember, and others theorize, that the southwest sauce on this was the same sauce used on the Bacon Cheeseburger Burrito that was also released in 1995 as part of another promotion. The real focal point of the Texas Taco Sandwich though was the shell. It was advertised as “Texas flatbread”, which was unique for the time since it was thicker than a tortilla shell. I personally can’t confirm this, but I believe it was an early version of the Gordita shell they would debut in 1998.

The Texas Taco Sandwich was a unique item that captured my attention, as well as my taste buds while it was on the menu. I do seem to remember it being larger than the later Gordita, but it probably had to be since it was marketed as being associated with Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas I hear.

Campbell’s Has Revealed a Limited Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Campbell’s® Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

I came across this news release today from Cambell’s announcing they are releasing a new Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup for a limited time this spring. For all of my life, my favorite way to enjoy tomato soup is paired with a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

A grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup was a regular dinner for me growing up. My dad traveled a lot, and my brother was older than me and working, so it was just my mom and I for dinner a lot of the time, and this combination was a go-to.

I’m intrigued by this soup idea and really want to try it. My wonder though is whether will it pair well with a grilled cheese sandwich, or will that be overkill. If it’s designed to incorporate both flavors, it might be just fine on its own.

Here is the news announcement straight from Campbells:

Introducing Campbell’s® Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. This first-ever limited-edition Campbell’s® soup flavor celebrates the brand’s iconic Tomato Soup infused with the comforting flavors of a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s the ultimate bowl of comfort bursting with satisfying flavor.

You’ll enjoy the toasty, cheesy notes of a grilled cheese combined with Campbell’s Tomato Soup in each and every spoonful.​

Whether you prefer to prepare with water (for a more robust tomato taste) or milk (for a delightfully cheesier taste), each spoonful will remind you that these flavors are just better together.​

This limited-edition soup is set to hit shelves at select grocery stores soon, but we’re giving you the chance to win a free 2-pack before it disappears. Enter today and you and a friend could celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12) in the coziest of ways.

That last line there references winning a free 2-pack of this new soup, and you can enter at https://campbellsgrilledcheeseandtomatosoup.com/

Pepsi Free

I have long been a connoisseur of sodas. Through the years I’ve probably tried every new offering that hit the shelves at least once. And for whatever reason, a simple can of caffeine-free Pepsi really hit the spot for me. Of course back then, I didn’t know it was just caffeine-free Pepsi, I thought it was it’s own kind of thing. I was hooked on Pepsi Free.

While technically, this is still available, it’s just not the same as it was in the beginning.  The can has changed, and there are no longer many advertising dollars spent on it.  Today, you know it simply as Caffeine Free Pepsi. 

Back in 1982, Pepsi became the first major soda company to introduce a caffeine-free soda to their product line.  They pumped a lot of advertising dollars into the launch and continued to heavily promote it throughout its lifespan. 

The original can was a reddish-orange in color, with a blue logo outlined in white, and struck quite an image to a young soda fan like myself.  While not really knowing what it even was, I was hooked by the can design, the promotion of this hot new thing, and the “taste”.  I swore to everyone that it was the best-tasting soda on the market. 

Everywhere I spotted a Pepsi machine while out and about with my old man, I begged for him to buy me Pepsi Free, and he would oblige.  At this point in life, I’m assuming that he was more than happy to supply a can of “pop” without as much kick as other sodas so he may hopefully get a little peace and quiet in the afternoon without a wired child running around. 

The product in its original name was phased out in 1987.  From that point on, it’s been known simply as Caffeine Free Pepsi. But I believe the sales would rise a little if they would go back to that beautiful orange and blue can.

Superman Peanut Butter

Superman Peanut Butter

It’s funny how some things can just pop into your head that you haven’t thought about in many years. This is one of those things.

Peanut butter is a staple in most American homes.  You can find it in cabinets, in lunch boxes, and in lunch pails all across this great country.  It’s patriotic….right behind apple pie. And you know what else is patriotic? Superman by gosh!  If you slap Superman’s name and image on a jar of peanut butter, you have the ultimate weapon against communism. 

At least that’s what a lot of us kids growing up in the ’80s in the rural area I lived in thought anyway.  We’d spend a lot of our time at recess after lunch playing Superman vs The Russians on the school playground.  No joke. We had our bellies full of Superman peanut butter and were battling the red menace to keep our playgrounds safe…just like in Red Dawn.  It was serious business. I even started a super-secret spy club in school to help combat the threat that we were exposed to on the news every night.  But I digress. 

Anyway, I’m not sure Superman peanut butter tasted any better than Skippy, Peter Pan, or Jif.  Actually, from what I’ve read online, Superman may have even been a cheaper variety than those others listed.  No matter the cost, that brand of peanut butter with Superman on the label is what I still identify as the epitome of peanut butter from my childhood. 

As a sidebar, I can explicitly remember one distinct point in time when I was eating Superman peanut butter.  It was January 28, 1986. We were out of school that day due to snow. I was sitting on the floor of our basement where I usually played, with a Superman peanut butter sandwich in front of me as I watched the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.  It was one of those moments where you always remember where you were and what you were doing….and I had Superman peanut butter to make me feel a little better as I watched those events unfold. 

Folgers Coffee “Peter Comes Home For Christmas” Commercial

This commercial really got to me as a kid.  It probably had something to do with the fact that my old man traveled a lot, and there were times he would come in early in the morning like this.  Never at Christmas though.  He was always in town for that.  But whatever the reason, this commercial has continued to resonate with me for all these years since I first saw it air. 

I think it embodies the spirit of Christmas in the form I like to think of it.  Families being together, and enjoying simple things in life like a fresh cup of coffee is endearing to me.  I actually keep this commercial on my Christmas playlist on YouTube to make sure I see it every season. It very well might be my all-time favorite commercial.

The commercial debuted in 1985 and played during the Christmas season for two decades. Folger’s updated the commercial with a newer version in 2009.

McDonald’s Christmas Treats from 1988

For the Christmas season of 1988, McDonald’s was offering up not one, not two, but THREE limited-time offerings for the Christmas season.

There was the 9-piece or 20-piece Holiday McNuggets, which featured a limited-time orange sauce for dipping and came in a festive “gift” box inspired by the season.

There was also the frosty Eggnog Milkshake and the rarely seen Peppermint Sundae.

As much as my mom and I would go to McDonalds, I have zero memory of ever getting to try any of these fantastic-looking treats. Back in those days, the thought of egg nog grossed me out so I wasn’t missing anything there, and I’ve always been a die-hard caramel sundae man so I may not have given the peppermint one a try. But those nuggets with the orange sound amazing, and I’m very disappointed that I never got to try them.

Willow Magic Cups From Wendy’s

Willow was a movie that captured my imagination in a big way back in 1988. When I first saw the trailer for the movie, I was excited as hell. Not even really knowing the whole plotline didn’t stop me from acting out adventures based on it before it even hit theaters. But that excitement was tempered by the fact that I knew the chances of going to the theater to see it were slim and none, and I could practically go ahead and strike slim from the options.

Usually, when I would get pumped up for a movie that I wasn’t going to get to actually see in the theater, I was comforted by the fact that there would be movie tie-in merchandise to enjoy. But when it came to Willow, I hadn’t seen a thing that was due to come out. That was until I saw a commercial advertising Willow-themed kid’s meals at Wendy’s. The box art featured in the commercial piqued my interest but the show stealer was the Magic Cups that you could get there.

I knew I wanted them when I first saw them. Mainly because they were for Willow, but also because of their “magic” ability. The cups had a base scene printed on them, but the rest of the scene became filled in when cold liquid was added to the cup. That was a cool feature at the time, and certainly was deserving of the moniker “magic cup”.

While I may have never been able to convince my parents to go to the movies with any kind of regularity, talking them into going to Wendy’s was pretty easy since it was a favorite for both of them. So on the next trip there, I got my Willow Kids meal and my first and only Magic Cup.

I never really cared much for cups that were offered by fast food places, but these Willow Magic Cups were one of the exceptions. I only managed to get one of them while they were available, but I held onto it for years. In fact, I held on to it so long and used it so much that most of the paint wore off of it. Once the paint was gone, so was the “magic”, but the memories remain.

Here is a photo I found online of the cup that I had:

Hot’n Devilish Chex Snack Mix Recipe from 1988

Here is another old recipe for you to try out at home in the modern age. I looked over the list of ingredients, and everything you need is still on the market today. This twist on the traditional snack mix looks really good, and should fit the Halloween season really well. I’ll be making a batch of this for Halloween night as my snack of choice while enjoying that night’s TV viewing. If you make this, drop a line in the comments with how it turned out.

Pumpkin Spice Frosty

The 2023 Halloween junk food season is a good one so far. I highlighted a variety of our finds last week, but the hunts continue so there is probably another couple of those posts to come. But for this post, I want to focus on a single item…the new Pumpkin Spice Frosty from Wendy’s.

I didn’t have to seek this one out…it came to me. About three weeks ago, our friend Tony from Retro-Daze posed a question to everyone in the TRN Clubhouse. He asked if anyone had heard anything about a Pumpkin Spice Frosty. Until I read his question I had not. But I have an inside source as my youngest daughter works at Wendy’s. I immediately went to her and posed the same question. She gave me a look and said that she really wasn’t supposed to say anything. I kept staring at her until she said she didn’t know, but that a button for a Pumpkin Spice Frosty had appeared on the cash register. That was all the confirmation I needed.

I told her that when they were available I’d like to try one. Then a couple of days later the official news broke that it was indeed a thing. Fast forward to this past Sunday when she came home from work with a sample size of the new fall treat for me to try.

I want to say something before I go any further. I’m a guy who feels like there is only one kind of Frosty, and that’s the original chocolate version that we all grew up with. A few years ago they started rolling out vanilla and strawberry options, but to me, those aren’t Frostys. The only thing I have to say to defend this position is that I’m old, stubborn, and set in my ways.

Anyway, I gave this new Pumpkin Spice Frosty a try and it’s not bad. It’s certainly good enough to have another before the season is over. Mine was a little melted by the time it reached my hands so that may have something to do with my feelings on it. As in, it’s good, but not over-the-moon good. I still prefer the chocolate.

But at the same time, it’s good enough that it’s worth going to get one if you like pumpkin spice things in general. I just wish they would call their non-chocolate creations something besides a Frosty. That name should be reserved for the original. And if you want to know more about what I think about Wendy’s and its offerings through the years, you can check out my post The Things I Miss About Wendy’s. Everyone else on the internet has, and you should too.

Revisiting Western Steer (Kind of)

Earlier this week, I attended a “going away” lunch for a co-worker who is taking another job in a faraway state. We went to a Mexican restaurant that opened near the tail end of Covid. I had never visited this establishment in its current form before, nor had I visited the place while it was occupied by other restaurants. Before being a Mexican restaurant, it was a seafood place called Harbor House. Before that, it was a seafood place as well called the Mayflower. Both have been pretty popular through the years, but I never went in. While eating lunch and looking around the place, I had to strain my brain to remember just how long it actually had been since I was in there. 35 years. I was ten years old the last time I was in that building, back when it was Western Steer.

As a kid, Western Steer was as fancy of a place as my family went as far as restaurants go. It was what I grew to call a $10 steak house as I got a little older. In the mid to late ’90s, we became inundated with “fancier” chain steak houses like Damon’s, O’Charley’s, and a few others as we added new mega shopping centers in the area. So a $10 steak house was a place where you could go grab a chopped steak, potato, salad, and bread for around the aforementioned $10. While a $10 steakhouse wasn’t as impressive as the others, it allowed you to take a date to a place nicer than Taco Bell but helped you avoid going broke at the same time.

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