Last night I asked my husband, "Are there any foods you remember from childhood that aren't made anymore?"
He had an immediate answer: Marathon bars, made by the Mars candy company. These are not to be confused with protein bars of the same name now made by Snickers. The original bars had nothing to do with nutrition and certainly would not help you run a marathon. They were so named simply because the chocolate-covered, braided caramel ropes were 8 inches long -- longer than a standard candy bar -- and probably required marathon-length chewing time.
But they are no mo'.
Apparently Cadbury still is making a similar confection called Curly Wurly, but the Marathon bar ceased to exist in 1981, a shocking 30 years ago.
Boy, are we getting old.
This conversation all got started because of a story on TheDailyMeal.com by editor Maryse Chevriere on "7 Drinks that Fans Miss the Most." Some I don't even remember, such as neon-green Hi-C EctoCooler and a Coke citrus soda called Surge. The one I do remember vividly, though, is McDonald's "orange drink," which my mom always ordered for my brother and me because she claimed it was healthier than pop (it wasn't, and she probably knew that but just didn't want us drinking caffeine or something). This radioactive-colored stuff even showed up at all the Girl Scout functions because you could go to McDonald's, borrow a cooler and get a donated package of the nasty syrup to make the drink if you were holding a charitable event.
I can't say I actually miss that stuff, though. Ugh.
Which led to my next train of thought: If people miss these drinks, which foods would they miss?
It took me a long time to think of foods I miss. At first, all I could think of were foods to which I could only say, "Good riddance."
Pickle loaf tops the "good riddance" list. I'm sure it's still made, but I don't see it prominently displayed in the deli counter like I used to when I shopped with Mom at Marraccini's in Elizabeth. (The store also is no mo' -- the family-owned grocery was leveled years ago, and a Rite-Aid now stands on the spot.) I hated pickle loaf. On white bread with mayo, no less.
But as I started pondering, I came up with some things that I liked as a kid, even though I'd think they were disgusting now. Boston Baked Beans, those boxed candy-coated peanuts that showed up at elementary school parties. Clark Bars -- you can't be from da 'Burgh and not miss those. Both of these items still are produced, but they're not sold as widely as they used to be.
Life Savers lollipops -- white vanilla swirled with orange, strawberry or blueberry. Again, these are available at least on the Web, but I don't see them in stores anymore. My friends sold these in junior high for band fundraisers. In fact, one friend got yelled at for trying to smash one under his desk leg for me so I could surreptitiously sneak chunks of it in class. Oops.
Quaker Corn Bran cereal also comes to mind. It was discontinued in the United States years ago, but still sells well in Canada, and this is one food that I still love even as an adult. For years, we had my sister-in-law cart some down for us in her trunk every time she visited from Ontario. But when she moved to Saskatchewan, it just didn't seem right to make her pack cereal for the airplane.
What I think I miss most, though, are the old-time generic foods -- especially potato chips, but also canned goods and other things. The products with white labels and bold black lettering occupied one special aisle of the store, and dumped in your grocery cart, loudly proclaimed, "I'm cheap and not afraid to admit it!" Plus the potato chips were actually good.
How about you? What foods (or drinks, for that matter) do you miss most from childhood? E-mail me your response, plus your name and neighborhood, and we can have a Memory Lane Fest in next week's column.
Friday through Sunday: Fall Festival, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Homestead. Ethnic foods, bake sale, silent auction, basket raffles. 412-461-9437.
Oct. 21-23: National Food Day Extravaganza, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District. Cooking demos, entertainment, food and information booths. pittsburghpublicmarket.org.
Also Oct. 21-23: Oktoberfest, 3 to 10:30 p.m. at McCali Manor, Mount Pleasant. Authentic bratwurst and more than 35 beers to sample. Tickets start at $15 per person. 724-547-4121.
Tomorrow: Libations at the Library, 7:30 p.m. at Carnegie Library of Homestead. Global wines, Penn Brewery beers, appetizers, Chinese auction, strolling magician, stargazing with Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh. $50 at the door; 412-462-0556.
Oct. 18: Six in the City Dinner, 7:30 p.m. at Avenue B, Shadyside. Five-course dinner with wine. $110; a portion benefits the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Part of a series of six dinners at area restaurants on the third Tuesday of the month. cratecook.com (click "special events").
Oct. 20: Downtown's Tavern 245 (at 245 Fourth Ave.) and Serendipity boutique host a women's night out with Pucker vodka cocktails and other fun. Bring clothing for Dressed for Success. 6 to 8 p.m. 412-281-4345.
Oct. 22: A Toast to the Community, 5 to 8 p.m. at Montour Heights Country Club, Moon. Wine tasting, light fare, music by Joe Negri Quartet, raffle items. $60 per person; $110 per couple; benefits Ohio Valley General Hospital. ohiovalleyhospital.org.
Throughout October: Sales of Pink Ribbon Bagels at Pittsburgh-area Panera locations benefit the Young Women's Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation and Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation.
Sunday: Sean Kanan -- New Castle native and actor, producer, gourmet cook and author of "The Modern Gentleman: Cooking and Entertaining with Sean Kanan" -- will do cooking demos at 11:30 a.m. at Giant Eagle Market District, Bethel Park. Free, but preregister: marketdistrict.com/events.
Tuesday: "The World According to Monsanto," film, 6:30 p.m. at East End Food Co-op, Point Breeze. Free.
Food Is Elementary, 10 a.m. at Fern Hollow Nature Center, Sewickley Heights. Natural health counselor Rosemary Trail teaches kids about vitamins, hygiene and the new My Plate nutrition guidelines; children will prepare Couscous with Apples and Cinnamon. Future classes are Apple/Squash Pudding on Nov. 12 and Rice Pudding on Dec. 3. $25 per session; preregistration required. 412-741-6136.
Healthy, Spooky Halloween Snacks, 2 p.m. at Giant Eagle Market District, Bethel Park. Sign up at Eagle's Nest inside the store.
Pumpkin cake decorating, 10 a.m. at The Pie Place, Bethel Park. Decorate a pumpkin-shaped cake to take home. $30; registration required. 412-835-4410.
Before Tuesday, "like" Farmers Insurance on Facebook for a chance to win a trip for two to South Beach, Miami, including a visit to the Food Network Magazine lounge.
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org .