Nostalgic memories of your childhood favorites

By Sarah Custen, Red Pulse Writer

The landscape of childhood has changed dramatically even in the short time since we were young. Kids these days are both technologically savvy and health-conscious. My 5-year-old nephew knows more about computers and Splenda than I do, and he scoffs when I offer to pick up Happy Meals and take him to the park. He’d rather stay in, Google his kid-friendly Web sites and lecture me on why sugar is bad and makes you sick. But what about McNuggets? Is nothing sacred anymore? I set out to see if my childhood tastes still stand.

JB’s Restaurant

Memory: JB’s was, hands down, my family’s most frequented restaurant because of three words: ice cream buffet. My little brother and I would fill our tall parfait glasses with chocolate, vanilla or swirl ice cream and then load up on chocolate and rainbow sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, marshmallows, nuts, toasted coconut, syrup, whipped cream…you get the picture. Plus, it had popcorn chicken AND popcorn shrimp8212;salty, fried, puffballs with a cutesy name. JB’s was heaven.

Reality: My friend Kevin and I went to the JB’s on South Temple across from Abravanel Hall, and guess what? No ice cream bar. No popcorn chicken or shrimp, either. It was just like any other nationwide diner-type establishment. We ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Lunch with fries, followed by a hot fudge sundae in a sad attempt to re-create my childhood experience, but all it created was a big ol’ tummy ache. I didn’t remember that part from when I was a kid. Maybe I was just so elated to be choosing my own toppings that I didn’t care. Or maybe it’s unwise to follow an all-fried dinner with a sugar rush when you’re over the age of 10.

Verdict: Without the ice cream buffet, JB’s is no different than Denny’s, Dee’s or Village Inn. If you’re into that, go for it. But maybe bring some Tums.

Kid Cuisine Frozen Dinner

Memory: Oh, it was a special night when Mom allowed us to eat a Kid Cuisine. For example, if I had a really good report card or if we had a baby sitter too young to be trusted with the stove. Kid Cuisine meant that my siblings and I could each eat a totally different (yet fairly similar) meal AND get some sort of crazy-type dessert such as pudding with sprinkles in it. It was AWESOME.

Reality: How are children even alive?! That much fried and processed food could only lead to nausea and headaches. But the only exasperating thing about the Kid Cuisine was choosing from among the 10 or so varieties. I opted for “Pop Star,” which included popcorn chicken (at last!), french fries, corn and chocolate pudding with knockoff Pop Rocks candy that pops as you stir it in. How cool is that? The corn was bland as can be, but kids are into that, and the chicken and fries were salty and delicious without upsetting my delicate adult digestion. The box touted all sorts of games and sweepstakes, but you had to go online to make it happen. What about the classic word searches and puzzles of yore? What are kids supposed to do for the three minutes it takes to microwave one of these? Go online, I guess, and that’s probably about how long their attention spans last, so it’s perfect.

Verdict: Still awesome and super cheap ($2 to $3 each). I ate a mac and cheese variety today for lunch that had gummy candies for dessert.

McDonald’s Happy Meal

Memory: When I was 10 or 11, I got kicked out of the ball pit for being too old. “They’re right,” I thought. “It’s time to grow up.” I switched from Happy Meals to Big Macs8212;feeling very adult8212;but I always remembered that little child-sized box of delight.

Reality: Apparently they have healthy options like apple slices and milk, but we went for the classics8212;cheeseburger and McNuggets. No complaints about the food. The cheeseburger was so amazingly salty and soft8212;I could’ve eaten five8212;and the nuggets were “an excellent source of happiness,” just as the box said they would be. The extras were a bit disappointing, especially the overtly gender-specific toys. Boys get a Spider-Man action figure that shoots water; Girls get a Littlest Pet Shop squirrel fixed to a platform and stickers. Everything came in a paper bag and not in the square box with M-shaped handles that I remember.

Verdict: I think Wendy McClure said it best on her blog, www.poundy.com, when she wrote, “O McDonald’s food, you taste so red and yellow and awesome. I love how the cheeseburgers are not “cheeseburgers’ so much as they are warm soft ketchuppy pickle pillow pies; I love the fries, even though I read Fast Food Nation and know they’re made from potato starch and holograms” (Sept. 5, 2007). Now, if they’d only bring back the boxes with golden arch handles and real games on the sides, I’d have no qualms about treating my nephew to a Happy Meal. But, of course, he’s too savvy for that.

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