I cannot tell a lunch-related lie: my mom used to buy me Lunchables all the time, partially because of the pleading and partially (I’m sure) because of the convenience. And she usually packed me lunch, almost always with a note. Lunchables were just so awesome, I had to have them — the meat was SO processed, the crackers were SO not whole wheat and the cheese, well. You know. I still have a thing for fake cheese. But when I see the Lunchables of today’s youth, it’s very hard to feel nostalgic for the lunch equivalent of a TV dinner, compartments and all.
I stopped being okay with bringing Lunchables to school around the time the pizza kits and nachos hit shelves. I still liked the sugary-sweet tomato sauce and inexplicably unmelted cheese shredded by some machine many moons before, as I realized when I read this Slate article a few months ago on how big food corporations determine what flavors kids like best. I really did like that sauce. I knew it wasn’t real pizza sauce and that I was not eating real or even slightly heated pizza. It just hit all the right notes while also satisfying the urge to play with my food as well as be a part of its construction.
Then, in accordance with the natural order of things, came burgers and hot dogs with tiny cans of off-brand cola. These were disgusting beyond belief, and I gave up on the plastic trays that occupied so many lunchtimes. The pumping of fillers and food-like substitutes continued on with Chicken Dunks, Shake Ups and Wrapz-(zzz), but by then I’d been gone for years. Not even a Foie and Fig Jam Lunchable with a can of that Sofia Coppola canned champagne I’ve become such a fan of could have brought me back. Hmm, note to self…
So think back, conjure up those flavors of your childhood and tell me: nutritional value and other personal preferences and beliefs aside, were you down with the originals? The little squeezy pack of surprisingly tasty dill mayo, and yes, the fun-sized before there was fun-sized Andes mint chocolate? Let’s take a trip down memory lane — I’ll see you on our Facebook page.
More lunches of your childhood on Food Republic: