After the 4th of July and its barbecues, Popsicles, ice cream and hot dogs (not necessarily in that order), we thought we’d indulge in a bit of summer food nostalgia, Baby Boomer style.
The first thing to come to mind almost came straight out of sci-fi. Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the moon on July 20, 1969, changed us as a nation in so many ways. The space race brought technological advances, dreams of limitless exploration… and Tang. The artificially orange flavored drink was manufactured twelve years prior to the first landing and was used on two occasions during space flights taking place in 1962 and 1967. Those raised in the 1960’s remember picking up ample supplies of Tang for camping trips and long rides to summer vacation destinations.
Speaking of beverages, who remembers glass milk bottles delivered to their front porch? We’d watch for the milkman to drive up and run out to bring in the bottles as we would a precious treasure. Farmland had been replaced by developments of equally spaced, almost-identical homes built around school districts. Even as farm life was slowly being pushed to the outskirts, over 30% of homes still depended on door-to-door milk delivery. The driver was often a neighbor living two or three streets away. We’d place empties out by the door to signal current need. When we missed the delivery (he was always on time, we were not), a simple call to his house would result in a warm welcome and children being sent over with the right money to secure the fresh, cold bottles.
The kitchen was the hub of everyday life. Now we tend to each have our own private hub. The television was the magnet that drew family together. TV Dinners were a true icon of the Baby Boomer world, especially in cities and suburbs. The first TV dinner came along in the early 1950’s, just in time for the second half of the baby boomer era. They were released by the Swanson company, at Thanksgiving.
With fathers working the well-established forty-hour week, and many women busy raising the children (and some working themselves), food convenience was certainly a common theme and Boomers remember snacking on imitation cheese, cheese squeezed out of bottles and the ever-famous and convenient Kraft Singles, which hit the market in 1949. Television did its part here too. A little dazzle here, a good jingle there and we were sold on the novelty and practical applications. At least we still had real, fresh milk delivered to the door!
In the 80’s the word “Plus” was added to every new product name to convey superpowers (Senior Vitamins Plus, Laundry X Plus…). For boomers, “Instant” was the word to look for. Quaker introduced Instant Oats in 1961. This was preceded by Lipton’s instant onion soup mix in 1952. Cup-a-Soup would not come until the early 70’s, but we Boomers were perfectly satisfied with that instant soup mix and its many applications. Moms across America, including north of the border, used it in everything from hamburgers to delicious dips.
If Jell-O comes to mind you may be a Boomer, but you are slightly mistaken. Jell-O existed long before Boomers graced the world with their presence. It was first marketed between 1899 and 1902. However, you surely remember Jell-O rings loaded with mini marshmallows or fruit bits. Some even went as far as to blend in cheese and ham. And this, it turns out, was a purely Boomer era craze, with lingering manifestations all across America to this day.
The Boomer era closed with the invention of Pop Tarts; a perfectly appropriate, sweet way to celebrate the historical fact of our existence. A good Pop Tart always bring fond memories of childhood. The real thing. No imitation, please.
Meanwhile, spacemen from other worlds may be observing these trends and finding us utterly peculiar as they gather round their versions of flat screen TV’s with the next generation of offspring, eating instant, extra-nutritious dinners out of wood cellulose, self-heating, self-cleaning, self-composting trays.