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Featured Article

Yesterdays 1: Foods Long Gone

Yesterdays #1:  Foods Long Gone

Yesterdays is a series of articles that detail my journeys down memory lane.  In this trip, I think back and share memories of foods that I miss from childhood.


Morning Funnies Cereal

Morning Funnies Cereal was produced by Ralston Cereals in 1988 & 1989. It was a super sweet cereal, bright in color and shaped like smiley faces.

The taste and shape wasn't the hook for this cereal though.....the box was. The box featured comic strips on the front and back panels. In addition, the back of the box featured a full size flap that opened up and featured even more comics on the inside. The company actually won an award in 1988 for "innovative packaging" for the fifth panel design.

The comics featured were Dennis the Menace, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Hi and Lois, Family Circus, Luann, Marvin, Funky Winkerbean, and What A Guy!.


The cereal was canceled in 1989 due to poor sales. The ultra sweetness of the cereal turned off parents, and the lack of fresh cartoons turned off the kids.
From my own experiences, I remember seeing the commercials for the cereal and feeling that I just had to have it. For one thing, it was part of my morning ritual to read the funny pages from the newspaper while I ate breakfast every morning, so this cereal seemed right up my alley.

My mother bought just one box. She rarely went for gimmicky cereal like this, but caved under my constant pressure. I don't remember what the cereal tasted like, but I do remember enjoying reading those comics on the box.....at least for the first two or three mornings. After that, the novelty faded and I was back to reading the fresh daily comics from the newspaper.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but quickly fizzled in execution. However, I would love to see it back on the shelves at the local grocer just to give it one more shot.



Dr. Pepper Gum


While doing a little research before writing this article, I found out that you can purchase Dr. Pepper Gum today from several online vendors. However, upon reading the reviews, people say that it doesn't taste like the great Dr. Pepper gum of old.

In the late 80's, we were drowning in a see of gum choices as kids. In those days, gum still came in packs of trading cards, it came all shredded in a pouch meant to resemble chewing tobacco, heck....it even came in a round stick wrapped in paper to mimic cigarettes!

But a new fad hit the shelves when bubble gum with liquid centers hit the market. I don't recall what the first gum was to showcase the new feature, but I DO remember the first one to make a "splash", and it was Dr. Pepper gum. It was a simple concept. It was gum that tasted like Dr. Pepper, with a liquid center that also tasted like Dr. Pepper. What a concept.

As a kid in those days, one of the few things your life revolved around was soda, and all of a sudden we had a gum that tasted like soda! Life couldn't get much better. For those of you who have read my previous articles, you'll know that my parents rarely felt the need to buy into gimmicks or fads, but when it came to this gum, they were both happy to pay for a pack of it whenever I would throw it up on the checkout counter.

Maybe one day, some company will get it right and start a new wave of liquid center bubble gum. Until then, I'll just have to chew on the memories.



McDonald's McPasta


McDonald's has tried a lot of off the wall menu items in their time. Some are fondly remembered, and some are still scorned to this day. But a few products have come along that most of the population totally missed out on, and McPasta was one of them.

In 1990, McDonald's decided they would try to add some entrees to their menu that weren't hamburgers or chicken nuggets. They dreamed up this concept of pasta dishes and roasted chicken, and felt sure it would be a big hit. Before they released it to the masses though, they went the test market route. 

A selected area in New York was selected, as well as chain of franchise stores in Northeast Tennessee. Fortunately, I lived in a part of southern Virginia where that franchisee had two locations, and put the product in those two stores as well.
What they offered was a selection of Spaghetti, Spaghetti with meatballs, Lasagna, and Fettuccine Alfredo. Each dish came with a garlic bread stick as well. They also decided to offer roasted chicken legs as a side item.

To be honest, the only one I ever tried was the Fettuccine.....and I thought it was awesome! For the six month period they were testing the line, it's what I ordered on every trip to the golden arches. My mother loved it too, and since my dad was out of town a lot, she felt it was easier to just run to McDonalds and pick up a couple of Fettuccine for the two of us instead of cooking, so I got to have the pasta goodness a lot.

Imagine my sadness one day when I went to order my favorite dish only to be told it was no longer available. I listened in horror as the lady at the counter relayed the info to my mother and I that it had been a test product, and she had no way of knowing if it would be added back to the menu or not.

As the weeks and months passed by, I would continue to inquire about it on every trip to Happy Meal land. And every time I was disappointed. After a while, I came to the sad conclusion that it wasn't coming back at all.

For years I reminisced about it, only to find it strange when other people had no idea what the heck I was talking about. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why no one had even heard of it. Then one day it popped into my brain and I searched it out on the internet. It was there that I discovered that it had been a test product with a very limited release, and that's why everyone thought I was crazy when I would bring it up.

To this day I miss that Fettuccine. But now I look back and realize that the stars were aligned perfectly for me to even have gotten to experience it in the first place. As they say, it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. But for those people who say that, to them I say they never loved McDonald's Fettuccine Alfredo.



KFC's Chicken Littles


Last year, in the background the tv was on and my daughters were watching some show that I usually care nothing about. The show went to commercial and I carried on with what I was doing. All of a sudden I was hit by a bolt of delicious lightning! For on the tv behind me, I was hearing a commercial for KFC's return of the Chicken Little sandwiches!!! I bolted to the tv just to see and hear the end of that commercial that advertised the return of the greatest hand held chicken sandwich in history. I immediately started making plans to visit my local KFC to once again dine on this fine treat.

I was horribly disappointed when I unwrapped the precious sandwich that I had longed for for many years. What is this? This isn't a Chicken Little. What kind of sick joke are these people trying to pull here?

You see, in the 80's, when they were known as Kentucky Fried Chicken and not the metro sounding KFC, they had the perfect sandwich. It was the size of a common White Castle Slider or Krystal Burger. In fact, it featured the same kind of bun. It had a simple thin chicken patty on it along with a pickle and a thin spread of mayo. It was simple. It was perfect.
As I've stated before, my mother and I ate out a lot when my dad traveled. At the time these were in stores, I want to say you could pick them up at 3 / $1.00, which made it a simple choice to say yes to for my mother.

I had these little squares from heaven every couple of weeks. If she mentioned in the morning that we would be stopping by there in the evening, I would count down the minutes until I held them in my hand. But much like my disappointment with the McPasta, I was saddened one day when I ordered them and was told they were no longer available. I didn't dwell on it though, and figured they would be back one day.

That day came last year, and led to the story I started this tale off with. The new chicken little is on a different bun, features a different cut of chicken, and no where near the super cheap price you could once attain them at.

While doing some research, I learned that several independently owned KFC franchises in the country still sell the original. I myself travel a lot these days, and am always on the lookout for one of these stores.



Keebler Magic Middle Cookies


Of all the discontinued foods out there, this one seems to draw the most response. Heck, there are even several online petitions calling for Keebler to bring them back.

The cookie was simple. It was a shortbread cookie, with a gooey chocolate center. They debuted either in the late 80's or early 90's, and were gone from the shelves by the mid-90's. When pressed on why they cancelled the cookie, Keebler only responded that they switched the machines used to make them over to another cookie line.

I used to pack these cookies in my lunch box for school, and was the envy of all my friends. You remember those days? Kids trading out parts of their lunch for parts of their friend's lunches? Those Magic Middles were incredible trade bait, but I never traded them. I would entice people with a trade offer, then renege on the deal and watch their bottom lip quiver as I ate them in front of them. Mean, but true.



Pepsi Free


While technically, this is still available, it's just not the same as it was in the beginning.  The can has changed, and there is no longer many advertising dollars spent on it.  Today, you know it simply as Caffeine Free Pepsi.  

Back in 1982, Pepsi became the first major soda company to introduce a caffeine free soda to their product line.  They pumped a lot of advertising dollars into the launch, and continued to heavily promote it through it's life span.

The original can was a reddish orange in color, with a blue logo outlined in white and struck quite an image to a young soda fan like myself.  While not really knowing what it even was, I was hooked by the can design, the promotion of this hot new thing, and the "taste".  I swore to everyone that it was the best tasting soda on the market.  

Everywhere I spotted a Pepsi machine while out and about with my old man, I begged for him to buy me Pepsi Free, and he would oblige.  At this point in life I'm assuming that he was more than happy to supply a can of "pop" without as much kick as other sodas so he may hopefully get a little peace and quite in the afternoon without a wired child running around.

The product in it's original name was phased out in 1987.  From that point on, it was known simply as Caffeine Free Pepsi.  Urban legend also suggests that a scene in Back to the Future helped contribute to it's demise.



Chilito


Ah, the Chili Cheese Burrito from Taco Bell.  A lot of people in this world only know it by that name, but it's official menu name was the Chilito.  

It featured chili flavored beef, taco sauce, and melted cheese rolled up in a soft flour tortilla and would run you anywhere from $0.69 to $0.99, depending on the time frame when you enjoyed them.  For me, that time frame was the early 90's after I started driving.  My friends and I on small budgets, due to part time jobs, would load up on these due to their cheapness on nights of cruising around.

Taco Bell had these available from the late 80's through the early 90's before discontinuing them as a regular menu item.  Some franchises decided to keep them however, and you can still find them on the menu in roughly 12% of Taco Bell stores nation wide.  Just last week though while traveling in North Carolina, I was in a Taco Bell that had a poster up celebrating the triumphant return of the Chilito.  I did not even notice the poster though until I had already placed my order.  I travel constantly though, and will be on the lookout for them from now on.



McD.L.T.


This one gets mentioned on it's fair share of fondly remembered foods list, and for good reason.  Of all the great, and horrible, things to ever grace the menu of McDonalds, this was one of the best items they created.

It was burger in similar size as Burger King's Whopper sandwich, and featured mostly the same ingredients.  A quarter pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese, pickles, and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun.  The beauty of this burger though was it's packaging.  It came in one of McDonald's signature styrofoam containers.  But this one was slightly different.  It featured two separate compartments instead of one.  


On one side, the bottom bun and burger patty rested, while on the other was the rest of the toppings and the top bun.  This allowed the hot parts to remain separate from the cold parts until you were ready to put it together and eat.  And that was the brilliance of it all.  A fresh tasting burger when the hot patty met the cold toppings.

It was released in the early 80's to much fanfare, but was eventually pulled in 1990 due to pressure from environmental groups protesting their use of the styrofoam containers.  Once the divided container was gone, so was the magic of this burger.  It was later re-released as the Big 'n' Tasty burger, but without the separated ingredients, the burger fell flat.

As a kid, I was getting a little old for Happy Meals, and found this to be a perfectly acceptable replacement for it.  I'm guessing it was basically the novelty of it that turned me on to it, but it was a great burger in it's own right so that kept me coming back for more.  

As a side note, McDonald's lost a little luster to me with the fall of those original containers.  Each container was a different color to represent what was held inside, and even the McNuggets had a little compartment built in to hold the sauce cup.  I understand the environmental impact and agree with the decision to stop using them, but dang, they looked cool, and figure prominently in my memories of McDonald's and childhood in general.


Well, that wraps up this installment of Yesterdays.  I'll be back soon with more.  Please leave your memories of these foods in the comments section, and if you'd like to further reminisce about them, drop me a line at mickyarber@gmail.com

Thanks,
Mickey Yarber





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Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 25, 2015 at 04:45 AM

If their pizza is any indication, then the pasta was likely quite tasty.

Silvervix Posted on Feb 08, 2015 at 11:58 PM

I would have loved to try that McPasta thing, it definitely looks delicious.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 25, 2014 at 09:32 PM

Morning Funnies cereal was also for me one of the sugar cereals I was able to convince my parents to put in the shopping cart just once. To me the flavor was like amped-up Fruit Loops.

I 100% agree on the old "McStyrofoam" containers. The designs were so iconic that they even made those transformer-like Happy Meal toys based on that classic look.

comic_book_fan Posted on Sep 25, 2014 at 01:48 PM

the chicken little is the same just a different shape and they are my favorite thing on the kfc menu.

MissM Posted on Mar 06, 2014 at 05:30 AM

Such a fun article! I loved Dr. Pepper gum! It was so good. I am just having a blast looking at all these older foods. Really wonderful pictures and a very fun article.

And Vaporman, you are so lucky to have McPizza near you! I feel like that was all a myth! lol

mickyarber Posted on Mar 05, 2014 at 11:39 PM

I also added a few things to this version of the article as an exclusive for RetroDaze. Didn't want to do just a straight repost.

Fulton4V Posted on Mar 03, 2014 at 08:35 PM

Morning funnies and chilitos were two of my favorites from this list. I wish Taco Bell had something like that today with all the same ingredents. I can still smell it now. The Mcdonalds in the town over from me serves chicken wings now and that is right beside a Kfc.

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 03, 2014 at 02:55 PM

I didn't have the pleasure of reading this when it was originally published on RJ. I'm glad you decided to bring it on over here, because there is so much long gone goodness here to fawn over.

Many of these I have to admit I missed out on, despite the fact that I was AT LEAST a teenager when most of these made it to the scene.

I do remember vividly experiencing the flavor and novelty of the McDLT, Dr. Pepper gum (my favorite soda), and Chicken Littles.

I hadn't actually put it together that the Chicken Littles of today had their roots in these original White Castle style sandwiches. They are much different now indeed! It's more like a strip of chicken in a hot dog bun! Still pretty unique, but not like the original.

McDonalds is hit and miss with their more "exotic" offerings. I have found that our local McDonalds has TWO very rare menu items. The first being the pizza. Our McDonalds is one of a very limited number that still offers pizza. Not just by the slice either... WHOLE family size pizzas. The flavor is very similar to what Subway had been offering as of last year. Crispy, and tasty. The second menu rarity is an ice cream bar full of Breyer's flavors. They even make waffle cones fresh right in front of you. It's very neat.

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