Tonight is the first chapter in what I guess we could call my personal pantheon of shitty food. From the ‘80s and ‘90s, here are six snacks I want back:
Pop Quiz Popcorn!
Made in 1992, Pop Qwiz was my jam. Believing that kids would love popcorn even more if it came in ridiculous colors, this was Pop Secret’s attempt to turn junk food into SUPER junk food.
Each bag was filled with popcorn in a neon mystery color, and until you ripped ‘em open and narrowly avoided the killer steam, you didn’t know if you’d be eating something blue, red or purple. What fun!
The coloring didn’t affect the buttery taste — it was just in play to make us feel circussy. As I recall, Pop Qwiz’s only negative was that the small bags were very easy to overcook, leaving you with popcorn that was half blue and half unforgiving coal. Of course, since black, smoldering popcorn is one of life’s most covert delicacies, that never bothered me too much.
Checker Mint Bubble Yum!
Ever since someone brought it up after my last tribute to old bubble gum, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Checker Mint Bubble Yum. It was always a thrill when bubble gum makers experimented with dueling colors, but this one mixed them in impossibly magical ways.
Judging by Checker Mint’s mid ‘80s commercials, it was meant to capitalize on that era’s favor for checkered patterns — specifically those found in even-by-then retro diners and soda shops, which were quickly appropriated by children who weren’t even alive when they first came into fashion.
I don’t recall if the “Checker Mint” titled implied that the flavor was more than “just mint,” and Bubble Yum certainly saw no reason to spend their ad budget clarifying that. We’ll assume that it was just old fashioned mint gum, but with the malleable gooeyness of bubble gum. I would do the darkest deeds for a pack of this.
Boku Juice Boxes!
I fear I’m one of the few who remembers Boku fruit juice, a bizarre attempt to market juice boxes to adults. The tall, slender boxes were filled with “sophisticated” flavors — white grape and cherry, for instance — and had no juvenile straws glued to the sides. Instead, you were supposed to sip directly from the bottle, pinky to the sky.
Boku came out in the early ‘90s, when I was just getting old enough to want to do whatever television said that adults did. I couldn’t drive or gamble or kiss under a bath of red lights and sax music, but goddammit, I could drink Boku.
More memorable than the juice were the TV commercials, which starred Richard Lewis doing what I can only describe as Richard Lewis impressions. You really had to feel bad for him, trying to make sense of the senselessness that was Boku.
I believe Boku lasted long enough to shed its pseudosophistication and just become another juice on the shelf, but at least during its debut, we were made to think that it was the champagne of fruit juice. Not many bought into that, but I sure did. It’s worth noting that at the time, I also ate paper.
Easily the most popular item on today’s list, Keebler’s Pizzarias weren’t just good — they were godly. If you didn’t grow up on Pizzarias and you’re tired of hearing people yammer on about them, let me confirm that they were every bit as delicious as you’ve heard. Holy shit, I want Pizzarias right friggin’ now.
Resembling Doritos but with a mouthfeel and crunch that belonged to them alone, Pizzarias were meant to taste like pizza. And man, they really did. It wasn’t just like, “oh hey let’s cover the chips in cheese dust and then add some red dust that seems kinda tomatoey.” Somehow, Pizzarias really did taste like the entirety of pizza. The way those flavors blended on our tongues and made our souls bloat with salty contentment was the likely inspiration for many people’s first forays into poetry.
The fact that Pizzarias were from Keebler was another plus. No other chip let us imagine our swallows coming by way of toiling elves who worked hard on our nutritionally atrocious snacks. When you ate Pizzarias, it felt like you were adding the last link to a long chain. You were now an official part of Keebler Elves canon.
Quackers was Nabisco’s failed attempt to compete with Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, but I want to make this perfectly clear: Quackers only failed because Goldfish were and remain impossible to compete with.
Here, delicious, crunchy ducks in assorted flavors delighted us with bold tastes and a surprising amount of grease. Certain foods just have a way of taking us back, and I can’t look at Quackers without remembering the time I fed them to seagulls in 1986. I took such sadistic pride in getting birds to eat birds. I was a really dumb kid. I ate paper.
If my memories are accurate, Quackers were heavier than Goldfish, foregoing any checks and balances on the fat content to deliver crackers that made us feel so very, very full. (And my memories probably are accurate, considering how the old TV commercials compared Quackers not to Goldfish, but to Cheez Doodles and potato chips.)
Hostess seems more willing to take risks than ever before. Over the past twelve months, we’ve seen them do some pretty wild things, from resurrecting Chocodiles to filling Twinkies with neon blue cream. Here’s to hoping the trend continues with a revival of their most indulgent snack ever: Hostess Choco-Bliss.
Each Choco-Bliss cake was actually two cakes, which acted as the frosted bread in a chocolate cream sandwich. Yes, that made it chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate. But since Choco-Bliss cakes traditionally came packaged in twos, it was actually chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate next to chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate. Sheer madness.
Even the kid actors from the old commercials could barely fit them in their mouths, looking not quite “ecstatic,” but more like they were trying not to choke. I think that was part of the renegade pitch, because it only made Choco-Bliss seem more desirable.