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.