Friday, April 26, 2013

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

George and I have begun reliving our childhood through Claire. As products of the 70's and 80's, he and I have much in common. Some of our memories are joyful, others painful or perplexing. Some make sense for the first time, now that we are on the parental side of the family table.

And speaking of tables, the diet of our childhood days has had George and me laughing lately.

As children, we both woke up to cereal that turned white milk into chocolate or had marshmallows shaped like stars, complete with a leprechaun's promise of talismanic powers. Perhaps, mom rationalized that they were “fortified” with vitamins, or that the milk made up for the sugar high.

Lunch was manufactured instead of cooked. Wonder bread and American cheese slices individually wrapped in cellophane – the American public actually paying companies to deplete foods of their natural goodness. Bologna earned the term “mystery meat”. Likewise, I’ll give someone a dollar if they can tell me what fruit was in Hawaiian Fruit Punch.

Every now and then, I could understand a weary mom serving these meals. They were typical fare back in the day.


If breakfast smacked of Willy Wonka and lunch represented the Corporate American Wasteland, dinner was purely puritanical. The dinner plate divided into a peace sign – a dry, unseasoned piece of meat in one quadrant, a potato in another. The last section was reserved for frozen vegetables revivified by boiling. Calling something a “medley” does not make it more appetizing. And carrots and peas are not tastier because they make pretty colors together. Either way, vegetables handed off to the dog or chucked into the nearest spider plant have no nutritional value whatsoever.

Salad served up in individual wooden bowls was no better. We didn't know that iceberg lettuce is as nutritious as water. Much to our surprise, the tomato turned out to be a fruit. (Yet, ketchup was a Reagan-era vegetable. So confusing!) Thousand Island Dressing was a fancy term for ketchup and mayonnaise. The red flecks in Wishbone salad dressing were supposed to be red pepper, but really had the consistency of wet confetti.

Dessert required no cooking, just a can opener and a flexible wrist. "Heavy syrup" cancels out the anemic nutritional value of a canned peach anyway. We are still scratching our heads over why they were called "cling" peaches.

But, all joking aside, let’s let our moms off the hook here. First, dad wasn't pitching in. Second, meals weren’t always that bad. There was the occasional French bread pizza or stir-fry when woks were all the rage. Third, even when the food was bad, we did gather around the dinner table as a family every night. And fourth, it’s clear our moms didn’t create this culinary poverty. It was a national phenomenon. The 70’s cultural vibe reached from George’s Connecticut upbringing to mine in Kansas. Television and magazines like Family Circle are probably responsible.

Surely, there will be culinary contradictions that Claire will make fun of someday. When did Cheerios served up in baggies become a ubiquitous snack? Do we really think cheese crackers shaped like fish are any more nutritious? Has anyone seen the sugar content in Dannon yogurt with the “fruit” on the bottom? Or just because Subway is a little more nutritious than McDonalds, does it really mean it’s healthy?

Plus, right now, Claire eats anything put in front of her. If and when she reaches the picky eater stage, Count Chocula just might do his thing on Claire’s milk too.

{pulled from the archives}

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Photo Source: Diderot's Dream, Wikimedia Commons


  1. Yes-my husband and I are both children of that era. I still like a good bowl of Lucky Charms or Apple Jacks for breakfast, or a grilled cheese sandwich made with the cellophane wrapped cheese for lunch or supper. We didn't know any better. Good stuff, Maynard.

  2. That's a pretty accurate description of what we ate as kids too. Well, except for the sugary breakfast cereal. My mother would only let us have Weetbix.

  3. PB&J was a staple for many years, along with cinnamon toast. Until, of course, my mother was trying the latest fad diet and then we were all on it - the one I remember most is the Melba toast diet. Ugh. I do remember going to my cousins' on the weekend and they had all the awesome sugary cereal we never got to have. Remember Cookie Crisp? Literally cookies for breakfast. Brilliant!!!

  4. Cheez Whiz and Velveeta. Eesh.

    My grandmother always cooked homemade and served at the table, even if it was just her and my grandpa eating. My mom did not. ;)

    And I loved ALL of those monster cereals. :)

    1. Oh, yeah! I forgot about Velveeta! Do they still make that stuff?

  5. Was there some secret handbook that all parent's abided by in the 70s and 80s? Those same things were on our menus, as well! If we were good, we got Tang instead of Hawaiian Punch. LOL Wow...thanks for the flashback. I'm gonna go make myself a bologna sandwich. ;)

  6. LOL this post is awesome! I loved me some Cocoa Krispies and Lucky Charms. It's amazing how things have changed from decade to decade. And that is so awesome that your daughter is not picky! My kids are both picky eaters and eat the opposite of each other. It's awesome. LOL

    p.s. I nominated you for an Epic award - check it out!

  7. Tang was my jam in the 80s!

    My Mom Mom was into whole foods and clean eating before they were a fad, but my parents were guilty of feeding us some of this stuff you mentioned. My brother lived on pop tarts for the first five years of his life I think.

    1. What was that tag line? Something about the drink of the astronauts! HA!


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