If you were growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, the food was fantastically bad. Bowls of sugar for breakfast, lasagna out of the can for dinner, and if you were lucky, cut up hot dogs in your macaroni and cheese. Face it, the food of yesteryear was delicious for all the wrong reasons and today, if you were to come across a bowl of Cookie Crisp or a Kid Cuisine, you know you would take a bite and question everything about your upbringing. Everyone is going to have their favorites and some still exist today at the grocery stores and maybe in your diet, but it goes without saying, growing up a Millennial was something special for the tastebuds.
A classic from the cafeteria line, fast food drive-thru, or freezer, the chicken patty was a single, circular chicken nugget. It had the right amount of breading, questionable white chicken composition, and matched with some shredded lettuce and mayo, it was unbeatable. The choice of bun really wasn’t going to highlight the taste quality of the patty and all said and done, as long as you didn’t get third-degree burns from the first bite out of the microwave, the chicken patty was going to offer the same great taste day after day. And when paired with a pile of tater tots, oh lordy was it a complete meal.
Now if this little breakfast number was in your weekly lineup you were one lucky cat. Eggs and Soldiers was the Cliff Notes version of any egg breakfast. A soft boiled egg cut open at the top and then dipped into with thin cuts of toast was the cats meow to start any day. And in the true form of former days, once the yoke was gone, to the trash went the egg white and shell. It turned breakfast into a fun activity and highlighted the best bits of the egg, if you know how to properly soft boil one.
Holidays, or any given Sunday, grandma had the once-frozen shrimp cocktail ready and waiting. It was the quintessential appetizer along with a bowl of Chex mix, but it set the tone for a pre-dinner snack well before any restaurant shrimp cocktail was fresh caught and ran you a solid $15. A plastic round tray of 30 or so tiny shrimp and a bowl of heavy cocktail sauce came with a big hug, a kiss on the cheek from grandma, and awkwardly sitting around the living room until dinner was ready and it was time to sit around the dinner table … awkwardly.
Does anyone actually know what bologna is — besides what most would conceive to be what a hot dog looks like after it’s cut in half and then multiplied in size a hundred times or so? Well, pair whatever you believe bologna to be with a slice of Kraft Singles and a little mayo and white bread and then you’ve got one tasty sandwich. Mushy and processed in all the right places, the bologna and cheese sandwich could be thrown into your tin lunch box on Monday and taste just as good on Thursday, perhaps even better.
Dunkaroos was the snack that you had to have in your lunchbox. It was perfect, a flavored graham cracker waiting to be dunked in a chocolate or confetti frosting was exactly what every dietitian wanted to you to be scarfing down come 4 p.m. when you walk in the door after a long day at school. No nutrition and all the fun, Dunkaroos was a dessert disguised as a snack that mysteriously fed the youth of America.
Purple, green, red, or mystery colored, why did the famous red condiment think it needed to wow its audience with some color that doesn’t exist in the natural world? Ketchup was the main ingredient of life for most Millennials when growing up and covered just about any food consumed. But red was not good enough, getting green, purple, and a few other colors certainly added ample coloring to the styrofoam plates laden with any variety of fried potatoes.
Fruit snacks for days were the way of the 90s with Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, and String Things, but there is no doubt that Shark Bites were the greatest thing ever created. Someone at Betty Crocker hopefully got a raise after figuring out the perfect combination of sugar, food coloring, and gelatin. And you can’t deny if you were lucky to sample a pack, that you had a favorite flavor or color. There is no good answer to why Shark Bites were so freaking delicious and if the chemical makeup was FDA-approved today, watch out because they’d be the perfect pairing for a White Claw.
Made of 100% juice, so they have to be good for you? Question is up the air, but with a triangular design, the Minute Maid Juice Bars were a delicious frozen treat. Offered in all the flavor of the youth (orange, cherry, and grape) Minute Maid Juice Bars were the answer to any summer day and were ever so much less sticky than the standard popsicle stick.
Ground beef with a few choice vegetables simmered in a ketchup-based red sauce slopped within a white burger bun, yes, you have detailed the Sloppy Joe. Commonly served with a side of tater tots, the sloppy joe was the Thursday lunch you knew was coming and the family dinner that was made a few days after Taco Tuesday. Sloppy Joes covered all the major food groups and on cold January nights, it made your belly feel all nice and toasty.
From the freezer to the cookie sheet and on to your plate, fish sticks were the alternative to your favorite nugget. Still delicious with ketchup though better with tartar sauce, the fish stick was the perfect accompaniment to frozen peas and mash potatoes out of the box. They were crispy if cooked properly at 425 degrees, and filled with all the varieties of white fish known to man and woman. When it came to a crazy dinner night in the 90s, it was a casserole drowned in mushroom cream soup or healthy helping of fish sticks.
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