Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Childhood Food Memories - Part Deux

I was exposed to a lot of snack cakes in my childhood, and they were a big contributor to my tubbiness. (What's my excuse now? you ask....) Mostly TastyKakes, which are still my favs - butterscotch Krimpets! chocolate Juniors! Tasty-Klair pies! We'd also have the odd box of Drake's cakes, or, very rarely, Hostess somethingsorother. But never Twinkies. Blech! First of all, they weren't chocolate, and secondly, they had a nasty chemical taste. In fact, all of the Hostess cake-type products tasted too sweet and artificial for the tastebuds in my picky (ok, not very) family. The Hostess cupcakes were nicely decorated, with their swirls of white icing, and the Snoballs were festive, but they didn't taste good, so no thanks. About the only thing that was palatable were the Hostess pies (Neal still likes them) but they also suffered from X-treme Sweetness.

But Drake's cakes - mmmmm! They were primarily chocolate--Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Yodels--but there were also yummy Coffee Cakes topped with cinnamon streuselly goodness. Honestly, Devil Dogs were my least favorite, because I thought the cake was too dry without the addition of the waxy chocolate coating shared by Ring Dings and Yodels. But I ate them, grateful that they were not a Hostess Suzy-Q, one of those cakes that had so much sugar in them, it came out of solution and made them unpleasantly crunchy.

Then there was the Holy Grail of snack cakes. During the Peanuts specials, there were always ads for Dolly Madison products, and I was desperate to try them. If they were good enough for Charlie Brown and Linus, they had to be delicious! They didn't seem to be sold in the Baltimore area, but I once snagged a Zinger on an out of town trip. It was vile, and I was sorely disappointed that I had fallen for the cruel joke played on me by commercial television.

It is interesting that now Drakes, Dolly Madison, and Hostess are all owned by the same parent company, Interstate Bakeries Corporation. I haven't had any of the above for well over a decade, and I wonder if they've all started to taste alike.

And don't let me forget Little Debbie! Ok, so I'd love to forget Little Debbie! Especially the Oatmeal Pies. (gag) My mother adored those nasty patties of unnaturally squashy cookies filled with white ooze and always kept a box or two on hand. I always thought that Little Debbie looked like a Little Hick and am surprised that the company hasn't gone the way of Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima and modernized their fictional icon. Even if they do, in the future, it will not improve the flavor or texture of their products.

I haven't had a TastyKake in a number of years, and hope they haven't changed their formulas to better resemble their lesser companions on the grocery store shelves. Perhaps I'll keep an eye out for a seasonal favorite of mine, pumpkin pie. Or maybe I'll just grab a package of peanut butter KandyKakes and remember how I never had to share them with my peanut-allergic little brother.

What was your favorite snack cake as a kid? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Childhood Food Memories - Part One

The other night, during our usual post-dinner conversation time, my husband and I discussed our favorite foods from childhood. Oh, how I'd love to taste Mom's pot roast again! And Grandma's kotlety (pork burgers), sour cream potato salad, and spaghetti and meatballs!

In addition to home-cooking, we talked about the commercially prepared products we grew up eating. Take canned pasta, for example. I would only eat Franco American Spaghettios with mini meatballs, and Raviolos. They were one of my favorite lunches, and I was only allowed to have them once every week or two. Neal liked Chef Boyardee Beefaroni, but he wasn't as picky as me about canned pasta. I tried a can of Spaghettios (now Campbell's) a few years back, out of nostalgia, and was revolted. The sauce was thicker and had an unpleasant unctuousness. One spoonful was enough; the remainder went into the trash. I am afraid to try Raviolos. Forget the rest of that stuff!

In the snack food category, we both loved original and Nacho Cheese Doritos when they first came out in the 70s. Then came more flavors and suddenly, there was too much seasoning on them for our palates. Perhaps we can chalk that up to old age maturity. (Our favorite seasoned tortilla chip is now Garden of Eatin's Red Hot Blues.)

I also had an unnatural fondness for Frito-Lay Funyuns. When I was very young, my mother made sandwiches of imported ham, iceberg lettuce, and Kraft Thousand Island dressing on rye (We ate everything on rye bread. White bread was for toasting only and was referred to, derogatorily, as wata [cotton balls].) for me and my grandmother, who was recovering from a stroke. She served Funyuns on the side. They are now inextricably linked to memories of sitting on the side of Grandma's bed and wondering when she would be able to get up and play with me again.

Bugles were another favorite, and I do still eat them on occasion. I don't think they've changed at all, but they are perhaps a little saltier than memory.

Our favorite childhood potato chips were Utz plain. Mom and I liked to eat them with vanilla ice cream, which Neal finds odd. (Maybe you do too.) He liked Utz Barbecue flavor, but I preferred the less-sweet, spicier, Wise BBQ chips. I haven't had the Wise chips since grade school, and I doubt they would be the same, but Utz chips are still crispy, golden, and delicious, and probably our current favorite plain chips. (Neal prefers the ridged type these days.) What about Pringles, you ask? I never did enjoy those fake, oversalted things (despite my love of Funyuns), but Neal will cop to liking them.

Today's kids have even more choices for salty snacking, most of which are over-seasoned for my tastes. And what's with the pre-made, multi-flavored Chex Mix? It's a far cry tastier when made at home; just omit the modern, egregious addtion of bagel chips, and use pretzel sticks instead of nuggets for an authentic taste of my childhood.

Original Chex Mix
1/4 cup Butter
1 1/4 teaspoons Seasoned salt
4 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 2/3 cups Corn Chex
2 2/3 cups Rice Chex
2 2/3 Wheat Chex
1 cup Salted mixed nuts
1 cup Pretzel sticks

Heat oven to 250°F. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.