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Archive for the ‘Foodstalgia.’ Category

‘On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine – as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together.’

That was a description of a profound beverage.  Here are a few descriptions of profane beverages.

Ssips

Ssips

Ahhhh Ssips…such an evocative name.  I recall a notably tasty lemon-flavoured version that had probably never been anywhere near an actual lemon.  By contrast, the ice tea variety made me nauseous.

Hawaiian Punch

Hawaiian Punch

When I was a kid, Hawaiian Punch came in a distinctive, square-shaped (rather than rectangular) blue juice box.  It’s now only available in bottle form, but I’m sure it’s still the ideal enabler for getting a dig in at your younger siblings.  “Hey you, want a Hawaiian Punch?  Yeah?  HERE!!!’ and such like.

Juicy Juice

Juicy Juice

On a fairly regular basis, I bugged Mom to buy us Juicy Juice.  I didn’t particularly like it (it tasted like real fruit) — but, c’mon, it came in a massive can that you tapped by puncturing both sides.  I mean, what if you don’t drink it all?  You just put it back in the refrigerator openReally?  Fascinating!  I guess I had sort of semi-cognisant preoccupation with botulism.

Ecto Cooler

Ecto Cooler

Ecto Cooler was the undisputed ruler of the elementary school cafeteria.  I think this monopoly was due to its affordability rather than any actual legitimacy as a product.  I distinctly remember my box of Ecto Cooler being snatched from my hands by a frazzled lunch lady.  An entire batch had just been recalled due to a shady-sounding ‘contamination’ incident that was never fully explained.  I honestly don’t know how they could tell anyway.  I mean, the stuff was green.  You didn’t really notice because it was contained within an opaque cardboard/foil box, but if you spilled some on your shirt it was green.  GREEN.

Five Alive

Five Alive

You can actually still get this stuff in the UK.  Really.

It’s been fifteen years since I last uncovered one of these characters in my lunch box  — and yet their memory lingers.   In fact, I’d say they’ve shaped my adult life.  Or, at least, my adult beverage choices.  I mean, this is obviously why I’m so obsessed with Crystal Light…

Crystal Light

Crystal Light

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Racist juice.

Like most American chilluns, I was raised on delicious juice.  Mostly the no frills, frozen concentrate fruit punch that looked like this:

0007874235195_215X215

We called it ‘Rotten Red Juice.’  It was metallic, sickly sweet and cavity-inducing.  But at least it wasn’t racist.  You heard me.

I’ve recently learned of not one–but TWO–racist British beverages.  We’ll start with the lesser of two evils, UmBongo:

Now, I don’t know what they drink in the Congo, but I’m pretty sure it’s not UmBongo.  I think they’re probably lucky if they get non-parasitic water, let alone delicious juice.

UmBongo is sort of insensitive, but Kia Ora is downright ridiculous:

Oh dear.  There’s a whole lot wrong with this commercial, other than the obvious.  The  crows are straight out of Disney’s Dumbo.  Also, the whole ‘I’ll be your dog’ thing works for Iggy Pop, but is slightly questionable fare for a children’s advertisement.  Probably not the best thing to stick on a t-shirt…

Can you believe these commercials actually ran until the mid-1990s!  Social stereotypes and juice–obviously a winning combination!  Why isn’t Sunny Delight taking advantage of this no-lose marketing strategy?

Yikes.

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Life in the UK has its benefits.  These include, but are not limited to: the NHS, Primark, prawn-flavoured crisps and–that exalted ruler of cardboard-boxed ice cream treats–Viennetta.  But alas–what tale of frosty indulgence would be complete without a horrifically tragic ending?  Certainly not one appearing on this blog.

Oh Viennetta.  Remember when you available for purchase at any fine supermarket?  Remember when you held a place of honour in every grandmother’s freezer and on every Christmas dessert table?  And now you’re gone.  In the frozen food aisles of Pathmark, Kings and Shopright your people weep for you, Viennetta.

Seriously though, why can’t you buy Viennetta in the US anymore?  I feel like it was around for 5 years in the mid-90s, then just melted into thin air.  By contrast, it’s all over the place in the UK.  In fact, Viennetta is so ubiquitous and easily obtained, it’s actually considered (ahem) ‘poor food’.  Asda sells it for 75p a box.  If you’re really desperate, just order a family-sized bucket from KFC and you’ll get one for free.  It’s included.

How did this happen?  How did the prince become the pauper?  Well, I think I may have figured it out.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane with this classic Viennetta advertisement.

Remember that?  More importantly, did you notice anything odd?

Yes.  Firstly, no one would ever eat Viennetta out of those dishes–a fact as apparent in 1990 as it is today.  Secondly, check out the ornateness!  It’s a freaking work of art!  It’s the type of thing 16th century courtiers would have worn round their necks, were it not for the whole made out of dairy thing.

Now, check out this more recent advert for Viennetta’s ‘Biscuit Sensation’ line.

What do you notice?  Yes, they’ve stuck a giant cookie in the middle (heresy)–but also: Viennetta suddenly got a lot less fancy.  As if this coffin needs anymore nails, let’s take a peek at Viennetta’s production line.

First of all…wtf?  Where’s the magic?  Where’s the romance?  Secondly, Viennetta’s all…big.  And different.  Viennetta is supposed contain horizontal layers of chocolate crispiness, like some sort of sexy lasagna.  This new version is decidedly diagonal in composition.  The intricate swirls have been replaced by clumsy lumps.  It just isn’t the same.

Once upon a time, Viennetta was a benevolent monarch whose style and grace Queen Frostine might have envied.  That was before it went mad with power and became a bloated mockery of its former self.  Now, relegated to a King Lear-like dotage, it languishes in ridicule next to the  Arctic Rolls.  Such are the wages of ice cream hubris.

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Ice price 2: Fat Frog.

All this talk of frosty treats has got me thinking about that superhero of ice cream novelties: the Fat Frog.

Prepare yourself for a tale of love and loss.

Fat Frog ice cream bars (made by Good Humor) enjoyed a heyday in the mid 1980s.  Roughly shaped like a frog’s face, they were comprised of florescent, not-found-in-nature green vanilla ice cream and M & M eyes.  At the beach, at the zoo, at the mall, no matter what, I always got a Fat Frog.  Screw you, Fudgesicle, I’ll take the glow-in-the-dark amphibian on a stick.

I submit that everyone loved Fat Frog.  EVERYONE.  For example:

“The Fat Frog, which looks like what it is called, is the hit of the summer” –‘Sticky Business,’ The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 29th, 1984.

“The way ice cream is going is big and colorful.  [The truck] sells Fat Frogs, green-colored ice cream frogs on a stick with M & M’s for eyes.” — ‘The Bells are Ringing,’ Long Island Journal, July 22nd, 1990.

There was even a television commercial and associated jingle: ‘Fat Frog, croak, croak.  Fat Frog, croak, croak.  I’ve got chocolate candy fo’ my eyes and a big green tummy fo’ a yummy surprise…’

And then, one day, Fat Frog just disappeared.

Poof.

Try finding a photo of a Fat Frog online–there aren’t any.  Try finding an ingredients list.  Aside from the countless attempts of fellow Fat Frogophiles to track down their favourite frosty treat, it’s as if this legendary ice cream never existed.  Furthermore, repeated petitioning of Good Humor has proved entirely futile.

But why?  Why jettison your most popular and beloved product?  As one blogger points out, Good Humor’s ‘Ninja Turtle‘ attempt does look suspiciously like Fat Frog (with the lame addition of a Zorro-style mask).  Could that explain it?  The unlikely popularity of some pizza-eating, adolescent terrapins usurps Fat Frog’s foothold in the ice cream hierarchy?  Good Humor, you bastards.  You and your stupid Ninja Turtle pops should be banished to the ninth circle of hell like the traitors you are.

Or, is the explanation more sinister still?  It seems that, while Good Humor is only too happy to stop making ice cream frogs, it’s positively eager to make ice cream OUT of frogs.  Sort of.

“Unilever, the British-Dutch global consumer marketing products giant, is the largest producer of ice cream and frozen novelties in the U.S…[Several Unilever products including] a Good Humor ice cream novelty bar, contain genetically-modified fish ‘antifreeze’ proteins…Unilever touts the benefits of this GM fish ‘antifreeze’ protein as ‘crystallization’ when ice cream products warm (above proper temperatures) then are refrozen…’Antifreeze’ proteins protect cold-climate amphibians and fishes.  Like all amphibians, frogs are cold-blooded.  Frogs’ body temperatures change with the temperature of their surroundings…[Frogs use] blood glucose as a type of antifreeze, concentrating it in vital organs to protect them while the rest of the body freezes.  Similarly, certain fish in polar oceans survive winter in suspended animation, using special ‘antifreeze proteins’ in their circulatory systems…”  (The Milkweed, December 2006).

BWAK?!  Is this Good Humor’s sordid secret?  Did the Frog’s freezability lead to it’s downfall?  We’ll never know, but I have my suspicions.

Oh Fat Frog.  Maybe we’ll be reunited someday.  Until then, I’ll continue scouring the internet for positive proof of your existence.  A Polaroid photo?  An old Good Humor price poster?  C’mon, there must be someone, somewhere with a deep freezer that hasn’t been opened since 1987.  I’ll take on 20 years of  freezer burn for you, Fat Frog.

More.

UPDATE!!!  Fat Frog spotted!

image credit: http://www.alleewillis.com/awmok/kitschenette/2009/12/06/good-humor-ice-cream-wrappers-and-stickers/

FATFROGFATFROGFATFROG!!!

image credit: http://www.alleewillis.com/awmok/kitschenette/2009/12/06/good-humor-ice-cream-wrappers-and-stickers/

What a cool guy.

Cheers AWMOK!

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Ice price.

This is a 99:

99 with strawberry sauce

99 with strawberry sauce

The 99 is archetypical British ice cream man ware.  If Mr. Softee was British, he’d be selling 99s.  The 99 is comprised of several constituents: sunshine, deliciousness, soft vanilla ice cream, joy, waffle cone, strawberry sauce (optional) childlike wonder and half a Cadbury’s Flake chocolate bar.  Considering most of the ingredients I mentioned are still free, how much do you think a 99 costs?  ‘Why, 99p (about $1.50),’ you confidently declare–and you’d be right, if a 99 didn’t actually cost £1.80 ($2.66).

Outrage at the expense of frozen treats is nothing new for me.  When I was a youngun hanging out everyday with my youngun friends at the Mervynn T. Haines Memorial Swimming Pool, we saved our meagre allowances to finance a rare and extravagant purchase–the King Cone.  Literally the ‘king’ of the pool snack bar menu, the King Cone was the most expensive item on sale at $1.00.  In second place was the Nutty Buddy, the more affordable consolation prize for ten-year-old poolgoers, priced at about 75¢.  If your parents were serious jerks, you might have to settle for a Fla-Vor-Ice–a nontoxic? glowstick costing only 30¢.  And we thought that was damn near poolside robbery.
WHAT HAPPENED?!  How did iced confectionary novelties become recession-proof?  Screw green energy, I’m investing in Choco Taco.

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