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As I have gotten older, I have found that there are some things in my past that are actually better left there. The quality of certain movies or television shows are the best examples of this, but it can apply to things like food.
From the time I was ten until I was sixteen, I spent a week every summer on Kezar Lake in the extremely small town of North Sutton, New Hampshire. While it’s not too far away from the larger area of Lake Sunapee, North Sutton is basically comprised of the lake, a bed and breakfast, several homes, and a general store named the Vernondale Store. When we weren’t swimming, riding our bikes around the lake, or being dragged to a glass factory by our parents, my sister and I as well as our friends would journey up to Vernondale with a couple of dollars to buy baseball cards, Mad Magazine, and candy.
Vernondale stocked a wide variety of candy, but one of our favorites was Necco Wafers. Wrapped up like a roll of quarters, Necco Wafers are manufactured by the New England Candy Company, or Necco, and have been made sine 1847. So it’s no wonder they were in such abundance in New Hampshire (another food item, Hires root beer, will definitely get its own post at some point as well). I’d seen them outside of New Hampshire, but rarely south of the Mason-Dixon line. There are eight flavors in a roll of Necco Wafers: lemon (yellow), lime (green), orange (orange), clove (purple), cinnamon (white), wintergreen (pink), licorice (black), and chocolate (brown).
So I was recently at a convenience store and as I made my way from the soda cases to the front counter, I spotted Necco Wafers in the candy rack. Usually, I would ignore such things, but I felt nostalgic and picked up a pack, then proceeded to write down my reaction to eating each of the eight flavors for the first time in twenty years.
Pink: Well, now I know why I’m able to tolerate the taste of Pepto Bismol.
White: Is this cinnamon? I’m tasting a little heat here, and it kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and used to suck on cinnamon Certs until I torched the hell out of my tongue.
Black (which looks more like dark blue): This is obviously licorice and I guess Necco was trying to get me ready for Jager shots later on in life. It certainly has an aftertaste, so I was prepared for that effect of Jager.
Yellow: This was like alternately sucking on a wafer coated in lemon Pledge and like those old Archway lemon cookies that my dad used to buy in Waldbaum’s every weekend.
Green: I’ve never eaten a fresh scent Clorox wipe, but I’m pretty sure this is what it tates like.
Brown: This is obviously chocolate–in fact, they sell entire rolls of chocolate Necco Wafers–but at first it tastes like very little and the actual taste of chocolate sneaks up on you.
Orange: They did a good job here of replicating the flavor of a creamsicle. In fact, this is probably the way creamsicles are eaten on The Jetsons.
Purple: Did I just swallow potpourri?
They are, I guess, an acquired taste, and are truly made for a kid’s palate. Still, my disgust at the flavor gauntlet I ran doesn’t take away from what are some fond memories of vacations gone by.
What do Beverly Hills, 90210, the 1994 Baseball Strike, and Zima all have in common? They’re all covered in the latest episode of Pop Culture Affidavit! As part of my series of posts and episodes called 1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties, I take a look at ten completely random things from 1994. It’s movies, television, music, and current events all in one convenient episode!
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I went to a kid’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Normally, these are held at one of those huge playland places that have ball pits, inflatables, kiddie habitrails, and that have names like Bounce and Play or Adventure Central. This party, however, was at the local bowling alley, and as I watched my son bowl (well, more like drop the ball in the lane and rush back to the chair so he could see the computer animation), I couldn’t help but think of the number of bowling birthday parties I attended as a kid.
My birthday parties–and most of my friends’ birthday parties–were pretty standard back in the 1980s. We’d go to the birthday kid’s house, play a few games, eat pizza or hamburgers and hot dogs, drink way too much soda, and finish off with Carvel cake. Then everyone would go home with goody bags that matched the decorations–cups, plates, paper tablecloths, etc–for Star Wars, He-Man, or whatever the party’s theme was. Sometimes, the party would be a sleepover and we would put the parents through hell because hours of fun and hours of soda and candy equals no actual sleeping at the sleepover. The parties were straightforward and always fun.
But bowling parties were a reality and we considered them some of the most memorable at the time, even if they don’t measure up to the standards of today’s epic theme parties and play apparatus. Bowling at a birthday party in the early 1980s was some of the most fun you could have as a kid for a few hours, and Sayville Bowl was the typical AMF bowling center whose decor would remain so unchanged for years that when I was in high school and college it seemed like 1979-1983 were being preserved for posterity. I don’t remember being a particularly good bowler–it was a lot of gutterballs and not enough Superman III–but I remember having an enormous amount of fun anyway.
Sigh … it’s never Superman III. (more…)
Episode 10 of “In Country” covers issue 10 of The ‘Nam, where Ed Marks copes with the death of Mike Albergo from the previous issue while on patrol in the city. Plus, we get a little more insight into the character of Ramnarain in “Guerilla Action” by Doug Murray, Michael Golden, and John Beatty. As always, in addition to the summary and review of the issue I’ll be talking about the story’s historical context as well as taking a look at the letters, ‘Nam Notes, and ads.
You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website
Also, here is a link to 11th Cav ‘Nam, the site I used for some of the research in this episode: 11thcavnam.com
I suppose that is not something to get really nostalgic about, especially since it’s a plastic bottle. It’s not the iconic 6.5-ounce contour shaped glass Coke bottle that is the “nostalgic” Coke bottle and it doesn’t have the personality of the 20-ounce bottle, which is easily accessible and personal, plus it’s shaped like an old classic glass Coke bottle so it calls back to images where people from the 1950s or so pop a top of a glass Coke bottle. The two-liter has never had that. When you buy one of those, you twist off the metal or a plastic cap, and don’t think twice about it.
Which is indicative of the area and time period that constitutes my youth. Having been born in 1977, I have this attraction to the shopping mall, the multiplex, and everything else in the suburbs. It is an era that is by and large disposable and I think on some level, even though nostalgia has turned its eye a little more toward my formative years, that nostalgia is selective at best—it’s the music, the movies, the fashion. Nobody is going to look at suburban life in the 1970s and 1980s with the same rose-colored glasses our culture uses for the 1950s. Because the decades of my childhood are the rose-colored 1950s’ unfortunate afterbirth: Levitt homes and small towns gave way to shopping malls, gated communities, and McMansions, especially where I grew up. You cannot go anywhere on Long Island without seeing shopping malls or multiplexes.
But then, there’s the pizza parlor. (more…)
I’ve always been attracted to random stuff at stores. When I was a kid, for instance, I liked to walk down the “aisle of forgotten toys” at Toys R Us. In fact, I even had a few of the random-assed action figures found in that aisle or at places like Odd Lot. The obscurity of those things was kind of alluring – they were products that weren’t as cool or popular as the G.I. Joe figures that were selling out in droves, so they were more or less buried in the store (which, in a way, probably explains why I created this blog). As I got older, I saw the same thing with books, albums, and movies, which led to some purchases that were pretty awesome and others that wound up explaining why said item had been left for retail dead.
I never thought the same could be said for food, however. Food, in general, has an expiration date, so I would be less likely to find a three-year-old jar of peanut butter on a store shelf (although I am sure they probably have some at South of the Border) than, say, leftover Spider-Man 3 toys. Still, there are always some foods in a supermarket that never seem to exist anywhere else, as if they were brought here through an interdimensional portal or something.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with cereal. Stroll down your average cereal aisle and you’ll see a variety of products you never knew existed–bagged cereals, oddly named generic cereals, laxative cereals, King Vitaman–and while most of them won’t even garner a second glance, there is sure to be one that jumps out at you.
For my wife and I, this was the case with CoCo Wheats. A chocolate-flavored farina cereal, we first encountered it at a Kroger in Charlottesville back in 2004 or 2005. I can’t remember if we bought a box the first time we saw them or if our first time came later, but somewhere along the line in our search for a breakfast food that wasn’t the same boring box of Cheerios, we decidd that we had to have them. Thankfully, we were not disappointed upon trying them for the first time; in fact, they’ve been a welcome addition to our breakfast table ever since.
Okay, I read that last sentence and realize it sounds like every crappy commercial ever. Sorry.
Anyway, two things that I found particular about CoCo Wheats were that for a cereal that kind of seems obscure, it has a pretty rich history; and the actual process of cooking CoCo Wheats is nothing short of a chemistry experiment. (more…)