Welcome to the fifth edition of Six Snacks I Want Back, where I torment you by celebrating foods you can no longer eat!
Side bonus: Lots of heavy GIFs sure to aggravate the site’s mobile users!
Chef Boyardee Sharks!
Debuting somewhere around 1990, Sharks tasted exactly like everything else Chef Boyardee made, and still makes. So wanting Sharks back has nothing to do with its taste. No, this time, I’m just in it for the shapes.
The implications were dire and awesome. Cans full of sharks, swimming in what we could only take as the blood-dyed aftermaths of horrible feeding frenzies. When you ate Sharks, you yourself felt like one. Specifically, you felt like a whale shark testing the waters with larger prey. The pasta sharks went down whole. You didn’t have dermal denticles, but you sure as hell acted like you did. When lunch was over, your kitchen faded into a black screen. Then came the white words. Apparently, all of this shit was directed by Lucio Fulci.
According to the old commercial, the goal was to get each of the three pasta shapes into one spoonful. It’s debatable, but I believe the set included hammerheads, great whites and tiger sharks. That would make sense, as those are the only shark species ten-year-olds ever hear about. I didn’t know about spotted leopard sharks until I was like, 30.
Screwy Hidden Valley Ranch Dressings!
Again, my attraction to these is more due to the concept than the flavor. I never miss a chance to type “anathema,” and ranch dressing is that to me. The closer you get to out-and-out mayo, the further away I must sit. For I know its habits. I’ve seen the way it glues itself to your upper and bottom lips, and how it breaks into those horrible strands whenever you open your mouth.
Still, something about Hidden Valley’s kid-targeted ranch dressings touches me in same way Heinz did when they turned ketchup purple. There were four flavors available, including Taco, Nacho Cheese, Pizza, and Super Creamy Ranch. (“Super” not because it was, but because just calling it “Creamy” made it look like jack shit next to the other three.)
I have no idea what they tasted like, but I still wish I had a bottle. Check out those funky label designs! They look not like they should be spelling salad dressing flavors, but the titles of my favorite ‘90s sitcoms.
Imagine chewing 50 or 60 Fruit Roll-Ups, but never actually swallowing them. Instead, you spit them into a mixing bowl. After draining any residual liquid from the cherry blob, you spread it into incredibly dense bricks. Then you let the bricks harden and congeal for a few weeks. The process is no more than barbaric than making wine, but the end results are so much cooler.
Eating a Fruit Bar was like eating a huddled mass of fruit snacks. Even the smallest bites felt huge. If Chunky was the soup that ate like a meal, Fruit Bars were the fruit snacks that ate like ten meals. I’m not saying that you couldn’t eat three in a sitting, but holy cow would you regret it later.
Delicious as delicious could be. Granola bars without any granola bullshit. Snacks befitting of Wonka skits. These were Fruit Bars. They were our everything.
Hidden Treasures Cereal!
Sugary cereal with frosted fruity centers! General Mills never advertised them as dollhouse-scale Pop Tarts, but that’s sort of what they were. Or maybe not. At this point, I’m not editing out any stray thoughts. If you made it through the whale shark stuff, I’ve got you for good.
By virtue of calling it Hidden Treasures, every bite made us feel accomplished. That junk in the middle wasn’t just junk in the middle, see. It was treasure. We didn’t run through mazes or decode any abstract symbols, but eating Hidden Treasures made us feel like we did. We weren’t just eating. We were discovering.
And yeah, discovering the same thing over and over sounds like it’d get boring, but when it was delicious cake frosting trapped in cereal? No way. Never happened. Encore, encore.
There are a lot of people pleading for Squeezit’s return, but the truth is that there’s more than one current brand that does everything it did, with reasonably similar success. So clearly the big thing about Squeezit was that each bottle was molded to look like a cylindrical monster, with eyes and arms and really demented smiles. That’s why we want them back.
Admittedly, they tasted really good, and since no two fruit juices are exactly alike, people who got hooked on Squeezit might have trouble accepting, say, Mondo Fruit Squeezers, as a suitable replacement. I accept that. But I still think it has more to do with the bottle-faces.
I was a little long in the tooth for Squeezits when they were at their peak, but that didn’t stop me from drinking them. (At home, in my bedroom, where no one could judge my passion for beverages that lived inside Lumière’s backwoods cousins.) All I can tell you is that is was impossible to be sad when Squeezits were in play. For as long as your bottle still held juice, you had a buddy.
Wyler’s Fruit Slush!
Not only was Fruit Slush delicious, it was just so perfectly branded. It was the only frozen ice treat that somehow felt like it belonged in a lunchbox — possibly because it was sold at room temperature, right next to the Fun Fruits. A meaningless trait to our adult psyches, but when you’re the third grade, finding slushy ice in the fruit snacks aisle made that slushy ice seem so freakin’ important.
As I recall, the flavors were super pronounced. They were like the uber versions of common flavors. Grape wasn’t just “grape,” but actually some kind of Double-Grape. This was a good thing. When you’re young, there’s no such thing as “too concentrated.”
Thanks for reading about old snacks for the fifth time. I hope you leave this article with untappable food lust, because it’s late and I’m a crank.
PS: If you’d like to get in on Dino Drac’s April Funpack, time is running short! Thanks again to everyone who joined up this month! (And before this month, too.)