Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Fun: Favorite Kids' Foods from the 70s

In the 1970s, I didn't have the most sophisticated palate, but I was just a kid. Mom usually had beautifully prepared, homemade meals on the table with lots of fresh, local ingredients. I was a picky eater. If it passed the sniff test, maybe I would try it, but not always.

"Store-bought" or prepared foods were like luxury items, especially when times were tough. We might get Spaghetti-O's when Mom and Dad were leaving us with a sitter for the evening, and that was a big treat. If we needed a quick meal or snack, we could have a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of Cap'N Crunch. Mom had to keep certain special foods around, just for the kids. Whenever my sister and I had a say, we would beg for Mom to buy these things. So, here are my top ten favorite kids' foods from the 1970s.

10) Del Monte Blue Lake Beans- Practically the only vegetable I would eat in the 1970s, these canned beans were a special shade of green going toward brown, but they had a distinct flavor. Thinking back, that flavor could've been salt, but really, they were cooked to death before they hit the shelves, so they were nice and soft. Oddly, they squeaked like cheese curds when you bit into them. Still, it was the perfect vegetable for the picky child.

8) TIE: Fluffernutters & Goober Grape- Peanut butter was always a safe bet for me. Fortunately, I grew up in a time when children were raised eating peanut butter. Was it a coincidence we didn't develop as many peanut allergies? In any case, peanut butter needed other things to keep it interesting, so we had Marshmallow Fluff and Goober Grape. I wouldn't eat either of them today, but sure loved them as a kid.

7) Taco flavored Doritos- First time I remember eating a Dorito, Mom and Dad were having cocktails, and they had a bowl of the chips on the table. It was an explosion of flavor, and I was immediately in love. My long love affair with Doritos would last through the Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch eras, but in recent times I have gone in the direction of more authentic Mexican style tortilla chips.

6) Cap'N Crunch with Crunchberries- My go-to breakfast and after-school snack was Cap'N Crunch. I liked all the flavors, original, Vanilla, Peanut Butter, but my favorite was Cap'N Crunch with Crunchberries. It was fun to eat all the yellow bits of cereal so I could enjoy large spoons full of the berries at the end, just a little game I used to play. I always knew berries were healthy!

5) Franco-American SpaghettiOs- I still don't know exactly how they get that tomatoey flavor, similar to Campbell's Tomato Soup, but it's as unmistakable as the mushy little pasta Os and kid-size meatballs. SpaghettiOs were our go-to meal on Mom and Dad's date nights. She could heat up a can and get us fed before the babysitter arrived, and we always felt like we were getting a special treat. It's been years since I cracked open a can of anything Franco-American. My last stroll down that aisle produced a jumbo can of ravioli and a very long, sleepless night.

3) TIE: Big Mac & The Whopper- Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us. How would it be possible to pay tribute to my favorite kids' foods from the 1970s without these two burgers. Back in the day, I probably favored the Big Mac, but these days I'm more of a Whopper guy. It's all in the veggies!

2) Good Humor Ice Cream- The only item on the list that didn't come from the supermarket, at the time. We had to have sharp ears and change ready when the Good Humor truck came down the street. The ice cream truck had bells, and the driver would ring them three times in a row again and again while slowly driving down the street.

All the kids came running out of their homes to catch up to the truck, parents running behind us with money, and we would all line up to get our favorites. Sometimes it was really hard to pick. My sister liked the Strawberry Shortcake bar. I was more of a Bomb Pop kind of guy. That's the red, white and blue one. It's had different names over the years.

1) Tree Tavern Pizza- This item is purely New Jersey. The Tree Tavern started as a tavern and restaurant on Crosby Avenue in Paterson, New Jersey. It was a landmark location in Paterson through the 1950’s and 1960’s right in the heart of the city. The Francia family presided over the restaurant from the very beginning. They froze the very first Tree Tavern Pizza in 1955 and was the first frozen pizza ever sold in a supermarket. 

Tree Tavern pizza is definitely the first frozen pizza I ever had, and it may also be the first pizza I ever had. It's a really simple pie, just a crust, tomato sauce and cheese, but done in kind of an old-school way. It's not at all fancy, just the opposite, but it's always the same and there's nothing quite like it. If I found Tree Tavern Pizza in the supermarket today, I would fill my cart.

So, that's my list of favorite kids' foods from the 1970s. What were your favorite kids' foods growing up? Would you eat any of them today?


  1. I don't know Bill, I am 74 and I still love peanut butter and marshmallow fluff (now in the new age called "marshmallow creme" As for everything else on your list
    NO way would I put that in my mouth :-) :-) In all my years, I have had one BigMac, and have never eaten at any of the other fast food chains.

  2. I'm in my 70s, too, and Franco American spaghetti (no "O"s in those days) was our special treat when The Folks went out. Also hot dogs on Saturday. Daddy bought Pepsi because he could get 10 oz for the same price as 6 oz. of Coke -- 5 cents!

  3. Yes, these are all too familiar with a lot of us. I may however be the only non vegetarian in the free world who has never had a Big Mac. I know there is still plenty of time, just no inclination. Great post!

  4. I was already remembering that squeak of canned green beans before I read further. For me it was Tombstone pizza (oy, the roof-of-mouth burns), Chun King frozen egg rolls, Chef Boyardee boxed pizza mixes (we needed two for our big family, so my sis and I had a competition who could make the best looking one), Tater Tots (they were new!), Big Macs when we could get a ride to the nearest McD's 10 miles away. And I drank my share of Tab and Fresca too. Ding-dongs, Hostess chocolate cupcakes, 1000 bars, orange Dreamsicles, push-ups. The hubs and I marvel at the fact we still have our natural teeth and normal BMIs given we ate all that stuff. Obviously, we don't anymore. We were very active though, which I think made a big difference.

  5. My mom would make put canned asparagus (Walla Walla Brand, I think) and hard-boiled eggs in a cream sauce and serve it over toast. I LOVED it. Maybe I should make it just to see if it was actually that good. I'm 63 and from "small-town" Idaho.

  6. Swanson pot pies and TV dinners! We never ate out, so that was pretty cool for us. I remember the first time we picked up a pizza and brought it home. I was pretty little and thought it smelled terrible! Also remember our local mom and pop grocery offering frozen pizza samples. The latest thing!

  7. Omg, I grew up in CT, and a few find and I were just talking about Tree Tavern pizza the other day. I wish it was still available.

  8. I am way older than you and have never had Captain Crunch, any flavor. My mom was more of a frozen veg person. Actually the only story I can tell about food is... potato chips... had them three times a year. Memorial Day picnic with the parents college friends. Fourth of July picnic with the extended family and Labor Day picnic with the street families. Notice my mom NEVER bought chips.... others brought them to the picnics. Like you I was a very picky eater. Can't tell you the number of times a week - "they" would say... see you at breakfast. These days I don't eat food with ingredients I can't spell or say so all prepared food stays at the grocery.