I was recently having a nice chat with an internet pal who thought Toaster Strudel was something Tina Fey made up for Mean Girls. They thought Gretchen Wieners saying, “I don’t think my father, the inventor of Toaster Strudel, would be too pleased to hear about this” was the first time anyone had ever uttered the phrase “Toaster Strudel” because they’d never tasted, seen, or even heard of an actual Toaster Strudel. I take my responsibility as a queer elder very seriously, and as soon as I heard that tragic misunderstanding spoken aloud, I knew it was time to bring my ancient knowledge to bear on one of the most important matters of my life: snacks. And so here are 90s Snacks I Want Back (Vol. 1?).
Okay, first of all, the thing about Gen X kids like me is that we really were home alone and taking care of ourselves by like age seven, so any kind of food that could be prepared in the microwave or toaster was a real luxury. Otherwise it was cold ham sandwiches and potato chips every single meal of every single day. If an Easy Bake Oven was real cooking, Toaster Strudel was like becoming an overnight French pastry chef. With one (1) single toaster, in less than a minute, you could have your hands on a piping hot strudel — 16 layers of delicate, flaky pastry with various jellies inside, like raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, and even apple cinnamon — plus, each Strudel came with a little ketchup-size package of icing that you piped onto the steaming crust in any shape that tickled your fancy. (If your family was rich, like my friend Nicole Smythe, you could get Toaster Strudel for breakfast and Toaster Breaks Pizza for lunch. And probably like lobster smothered in caviar and béchamel sauce for dinner, I don’t know, we got one box of Strudel per week to split between me and my sister.)
The thing about Warheads is that you simply cannot describe them to someone who has never tasted them. You could say “sour” or “super sour” or “jet fuel” and it still wouldn’t capture the experience of eating a Warhead. Even typing this, 20 years after the last time I tasted a Warhead, I can feel my entire face puckering up like I just got punched in the mouth. I’m overproducing saliva, my eyes are watering, there are maybe hives popping up on my neck. If I had to guess, I would say that Warheads are made of sugar and that stuff called The Dip that Judge Doom uses in Roger Rabbit to melt cartoon characters. The point of Warheads isn’t even to enjoy them. It’s a type of posturing to prove that you’re tough enough to smile and laugh and gossip about your classmates while the inside of your mouth is literally being eaten away the way acid rain leeches minerals and nutrients from soil. The worst possible thing you can do to a Warhead is bite into it to try to finish it faster, because inside the Warhead is more Judge Doom Dip, in goo form. They remain a perfect treat.
Shark Bites Fruit Snacks
Apologies to Annie’s, but Shark Bites Fruit Snacks are the best fruit snacks to ever be snacked. They were originally called Fruit Wrinkles, and while Fruit Wrinkles were equally tasty, they were not nearly as satisfying as Shark Bites, which were way more metal than Wrinkles and also included at least one Great White in each package. The Great Whites were a different texture and flavor than the other Sharks (windshield wiper fluid flavor, maybe?), and the precursor to the all-time greatest fruit snack, The Tiger Shark, an orange and white-striped beast that didn’t taste like any fruit I’ve ever munched on, but was still my most coveted treat. I once tried to save enough Tiger Sharks to make a necklace, but they were too yummy; I could never amass more than about five at a time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pizza Crunchabungas
One of the best things about the 90s was the absolute explosion of Pizza Culture, which included delivery pizza becoming a staple of American dinnertimes, the rise of reading programs that rewarded kids with Pizza Hut coupons, and the multi-billion dollar Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles industry dominating every entertainment platform, from TVs to video games to comic books to toy shelves to the big screen. Those turtle boys loved their pizza, and so the franchise started licensing their name and images to even foods! The best of them, by far, were Pizza Crunchabungas. And not just because of the killer theme song that included the lyrics, “Sounds like a pizza snack attack, dude / I’ll take on any ninja who takes my crunchy food!” They were pizza-shaped (so: circles) corn-puffs tossed in pizza-flavored dust. Like pizza Cheetos, kinda, but better because they were Crunchabunga!
Nabisco’s Suddenly S’mores
Suddenly S’mores were mine and my sister’s most treasured snack. First of all, they were very expensive. You only got four in a pack and they cost as much as a whole box of cookies. Second of all, much like Toaster Strudel, they made you feel like a pastry god because you didn’t just pull them out of their wrapper and eat them. No! You had to heat them up in the microwave for 30-ish seconds! If your parents weren’t around to chide you about “radiation” (and certainly they were not), you could stand directly in front of the microwave and peer into the door and watch the Suddenly S’more puuuuuuf up to just the right height, open the door speedy-quick, and then see it deflate into a size that would fit into your mouth.
The “graham cracker” part of Suddenly S’mores wasn’t crunchy like a real graham cracker, it was kind of soft (and also kind of hard? like wet cardboard, sort of?) and it soaked up the melty chocolate perfectly. The more sophisticated connoisseur could get a taste of cookie, chocolate, and marshmallow in every single bite — but that took some practice because too long in the microwave made the giant marshmallow run over the edge, and not enough time in the microwave prevented the marshmallow from spreading out to cover the whole treat. Nabisco’s Suddenly S’mores were an art form.
Okay and that is 1,000 words on 90s snacks. I better stop here because conventional wisdom says the modern reader won’t consume more than 1,000 words on nostalgia content. However! I’ve got at least 20 more snacks in mind, so please do let me know if you’d like more of my elder knowledge on this important subject.