I’ve been thinking about the shit I ate when I was a kid. Not at home, since if one is at my mother’s, the conversation goes like this:
Me: I’m hungry.
Mom: Eat an apple.
Has there ever been a more depressing answer in the history of time beyond, “Eat an apple”?
Me: I’m hungry.
Mom: Eat an apple. Also, an anvil is about to crash onto your head.
But I can’t be sure. The latter might be preferable.
I detest apples. Which, by the way, every time I say this to my mother, she says, “No, you don’t” as if I have no concept of what I do or don’t like. Or she expresses surprise, as if I used to be Johnny Appleseed.
I have always hated apples.
The only apple I can stomach is a Granny Smith, and by the way, whoever came up with that name really went to town. Are the green apples in the Witness Protection Program? Granny Smith. Why not Granny Schwinkendorf? Granny Rose Blossom? Granny Horkheimer?
Mild cheddar was the only other readily available snack at my mother’s house, the only other thing that you didn’t have to heat up the oven and get the mixer out to have. It was your only choice beyond the mealy-mouthed red apple.
Mild cheddar. The Melanie Hamilton of cheese.
It’s no wonder I was so thin in my youth. Sally Struthers should have been standing tearfully in front of our house, begging someone to send me some sharp white cheddar.
So, no. I’m talking about the sugar mecca that was gramma’s. If she saw a commercial for something bad for you, you didn’t even have to ask. She’d stampede for it. I remember when I was older, and my cousin Katie the Lesbian was a child, gramma said, “We’re going out to eat. Katie says she’s Wendy’s kind of people.”
That was all it took. Katie knew how she wanted it: hot off the grill.
But that’s ’80s food. I’m talking ’70s food. Back when food was fantastic.
For example, Snack Packs didn’t have any namby-pamby foil lid. It was a real can, and you could cut your lips off with the lid. But oh, it was worth it.
That’s the problem with kids today. Everything’s too safe. We’re raising a generation of mild cheddars. They don’t have to worry about getting shards of their Click-Clack in their eye,
or or doing a unicorn impression with a jart.
My gramma had her Snack Packs in the bottom of a narrow cupboard between the stove and the sink. There was also a mousetrap down there, so you had the possibility of dinner and a show. And it was a real, cartoon, SNAP mousetrap. It didn’t really dawn on me to be appalled by it. I’d just shout, “GRAMMA!” when a mouse was in there.
“Oh, shit. Okay. I’m coming,” she’d say.
This orange juice came in individual-servings cans, as well, and I believe you had to actually puncture the top of the can with the pointy part of a can opener. I mean, it took some work. You were practically a cave woman, hunting a mastodon.
I always admired the orange women; I thought they were pretty. They seem sort of in on a secret, don’t they? They’re wrong. YOU’RE ALL GETTING JUICED TO DEATH, BITCHES.
Also, in All in the Family, which was on around the time my gramma diet consisted of pudding and orange juice, Archie Bunker was often holding a can, and I thought, man, he drinks a lotta orange juice.
I never said I was a gifted child.
This was a cereal I insisted gramma get, and then I hated. I don’t know how to tell you this, but it was too sweet. But it had 100% of my minimum requirements of vitamins and iron.
That can’t possibly be true. What, did it have kale in it? How is that possible? Also, this cereal was emoji cereal. No wonder I hated it.
I was just looking at all the other Google images of cereal from the ’70s, and came across this. Oh, FUCK YEAH. Why is this not available right now?
I know a lot of why I loved this stuff was because it was at gramma’s. Her overly warm house, the cuckoo clock, people coming in and out the front door, bringing the Michigan cold in with them. Her mostly empty upstairs, because all the kids had moved out, that housed her Real Romance magazines and my Uncle Jim’s drums that I never, ever touched for fear he would actually break my bones.
You can’t help but enjoy something served to you by a person who thinks you hung the moon, when really all you are is a riby midwestern 8-year-old. You can’t help but enjoy something when you know your arthritic grandmother saw that brightly colored box in the store aisle and bought it, knowing she’d never be eating it and saw no reason for it other than it delighted her granddaughter.
So, bad food equals love. I know that.
But if you served me some Snack Pack Butterscotch at Tarantula Fest, over at the tent where everyone is vomiting cilantro, I’d still stop everything and say, “Goddammit, this is marvelous.”