Things That Taste Like My Childhood
I know this list contains terrible excuses for food that already have taken their toll and/or ultimately will lead to my demise. Alas, to be children of the 70s-80s...
- •Sunkist Fruit GemsPathetically, the only fruit I can clearly recall from childhood.
- •Thrifty's Coconut Pineapple Ice CreamYou can still buy this today at Rite Aid, but nothing beat Thrifty's $0.29 per scoop cost, the odd cube-shaped scoop of ice cream, and picking flavors with your nose up against the glass on a hot summer day. My brother's fave was Chocolate Malted Crunch, and sometimes, I'd mix it up and get Pistachio Cashew.
- •Nissin Top RamenEveryone was eating ramen at home way before it was trendy and expensive. Again, sodium overload here, but this was my go-to kid's meal or what I wanted when I didn't really know what to eat. Ramen even had a special nickname in my house — "jojo" which I'd say almost every other day. I never added much to it in terms of meat or veggies, but just requested "jojo w/soup" or "plain jojo."
- •Botan Rice CandyWhat can I say? We're Asian. The best part is actually the edible translucent candy wrapper, not the free stickers.
- •Banquet Fried ChickenI had no idea the amount of preservatives and sodium we were consuming, but frozen food was a treat in our household. My brother and I felt so grown up being able to feed ourselves via a microwave.
- •Cotton CandyMost everyone's childhood memories include this, but this is specifically tied to a cherished memory of my devoted grandma (Mamang) who chased down a vendor at the circus when three-year-old me cried for pink clouds.
- •Fried WontonI was usually the token Asian kid (always the token Filipino) but my 3rd grade teacher made me feel special because of it. She always told the class how awesome Asian food was, and one time, she held a special class where we went to her house to make fried wontons (her favorite, and my mom's recipe.) We all helped prep and fry them, and everyone loved eating them. I felt like such a rockstar for being the only kid whose mom made these. Thanks, Mom! And thanks, Miss Finley!
- •Fruit Stripe GumMy uncle lived in navy housing, and my cousin and I would visit the neighborhood military exchange/store for candy. Always picked this up. The flavor didn't last long but still so yummy.
- •Sir George's SmorgasbordThis was a fancy dinner spot in Long Beach, where I spent the earlier half of my childhood. I don't think this place even exists anymore? But I distinctly recall being the only non-white family in here. I don't even think the food was particularly good, but I do remember excitedly lining up for food and diggin' the all-you-can-eat fried shrimp.
- •Peanut Butter & JellyI didn't grow up w/PB&J but have a vivid memory. My 1st grade teacher asked us to write a recipe for a PB&J sandwich for homework. My ethnic parents tried to write a basic recipe for me. I bring it to school, and Miss Brown goes through the recipes, singling out mine. She brings out a large jar of PB, jelly and bread, and says, let's see what the recipes tell us to do. Mine was all wrong, and she ends up making a weird creation, reading my steps as the class laughs at me. I never had PB&J again.
- •Libby's Vienna SausagesHeated in a frying pan and served with steamed rice and scrambled eggs, this was easily the breakfast of immigrant champions. I know this can of processed meat grosses many out, but boy, did/do I love 'em.
- •Nissin Cup NoodlesThey should have called it Cup O'Sodium, but alas, Mom didn't realize what she was feeding us. My favorite was the kind with the teeny-tiny shrimp.
- •Cantaloupe Melon JuiceOh, so we did have fruit growing up! Credit to my Filipino culture for inventing this bomb tropical drink, made from fresh cantaloupe juice and strings over ice. Mom always had a pitcher of this in the fridge plus fun spoon-straws so you could eat while you drink. Genius Asian islanders.
- •Pioneer ChickenAh yes, another of the many fried chicken fast food joints that once competed with KFC. The tantalizing scent was distinct, and as for flavor, I think Pioneer is still far superior to Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it's probably for the best that this no longer exists.