Food Column: More foods we miss

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Three weeks and counting, and we're still talking food nostalgia.

Two weeks ago, I asked readers which discontinued foods they miss most. I've heard from 90 of you.

Last week we talked candy, canned foods and beverages.

But one category we haven't addressed yet -- and it's a big one -- is breakfast cereals.

I told my husband how many of you were craving long-gone cereals, and he said his favorite cereal was never an actual cereal at all. It was a dreamed-up cereal in a "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip.

"I love Saturdays!" Calvin exults, leaping out of bed.

"Every Saturday I get up at six and eat three bowls of Crunchy Sugar Bombs. Then I watch cartoons till noon, and I'm incoherent and hyperactive the rest of the day."

"Does it work?" Hobbes asks.

Calvin answers, "No brothers or sisters so far!"

All kidding aside, I'd never really thought about how many so-called "sugar cereals" are tied to movie and TV characters. When the movie run ends, so does the cereal run. Readers mentioned missing Ghostbusters, Smurf Berries, Pink Panther Flakes and Nintendo cereals.

I probably missed out on this realization because my mother never let us eat sugar cereal -- and now I don't let my kids eat it, either. Last Saturday my son burst into the room at 6:30 a.m. and shined a flashlight in my face, so my Saturdays are wild enough without Crunchy Sugar Bombs.

Other cereals people mentioned included Quisp, Count Chocula, King Vitamin, Kellogg's Krumbles and Nabisco Team Flakes.

That last one was a favorite of Kristin Wessell of Mt. Lebanon, who wrote, "The fact that they would stay crispy to the bottom of the bowl made them the best cereal!"

Two readers kindly responded to my long-unfulfilled desire for Quaker Corn Bran cereal by noting they'd found it recently at Target stores. And sha-zam! I went to Target last week, and there it was.

For Joe Katrencik of Brentwood, the actual cereal mattered less than the prize in the box.

"Though Kellogg's Rice Krispies were my favorite, I must have spent months eating Sugar Corn Pops so that I could get the whole series of cutout Western guns pictured on the backs of the boxes." He also got a toy submarine from a cereal box -- you filled it with baking soda and it went up and down in a pan of water.

Readers mentioned that discontinued cereals occasionally turn up on eBay or other websites.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a couple corrections as well.

For one, Cherikee Red might be a goner in my own diet, but two readers pointed out that it's still out there.

And Horlicks Malted Milk Tablets were not candy, but tablets you dropped into milk to flavor it.

Bill Minkler of Bethel Park went to elementary school in Racine, Wis., then the home of Horlicks headquarters.

"Horlicks was a really big deal in Racine, where one of the two local high schools is named after CEO William Horlick," Mr. Minkler wrote. "The other is named after George Washington."

Mark Lauff of GlaxoSmithKline in Moon says his company still sells Horlicks in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia and elsewhere.

Here are some other most-missed food categories. I'm sorry I don't have space to mention every product or reader.

Desserts: Several readers mentioned Isaly's and Sealtest ice creams, along with Jell-O Pudding Pops, which are still on the market but don't taste the same.

Mindy Gingrich, who grew up in Verona and now lives in Harrisburg, remembers "Jell-O 1-2-3" as a favorite childhood dessert.

"This product was a box of Jell-O you mixed as usual but when it set, it set in three layers: solid on the bottom, creamy in the middle and foamy on top. Loved it!"

Two readers also mentioned Junket custard. Good news, folks: It's still out there at junketdesserts.com.

In the cookie category, Michelle Bushmire of Scott recalls FudgeTown cookies, made by the Burry Co., and even trotted out the commercial jingle: "They're mixed and they're baked by Burry, so they're Burry, Burry good." Sue Collins, posting on Facebook, recalled Melody cookies -- chocolate or vanilla flower-shaped cookies sprinkled with sugar.

Pasta: Several readers miss Betty Crocker's Noodles Romanoff.

"People actually refer to it as a tragedy [in Web comments] that this is no longer available," wrote Debbie Hocker of Ross. "I don't know about that, but it was a tasty side dish."

Pamela Braden of Coraopolis says the yellow powder from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is the best substitute.

And Helen Kurawski and her daughters bought Spatini spaghetti mix in bulk when they heard it was being discontinued, so now they've got freezers full of it.

If she wanted to, Ms. Kurawski could make big bucks. On the Web, spatini.info sells two 15-ounce packs for $25.

Candy: We covered candy last week, but Peg Bittner of South Park wrote a few days ago and mentioned one I couldn't pass up including: candy cigarettes. Can you believe we actually ate/smoked those things at elementary school parties in the '70s? Boy, would those be taboo in school now -- but you can still get them on the Web.

Fast food: It's not just menu items but whole restaurants that readers miss.

Chuck Lipinski of Millvale misses the Rax salad bar. Rax still has locations in the Midwest but has pulled out of Pennsylvania. If you're desperate, you could strike out for West Virginia or Ohio (raxroastbeef.com).

One Facebooker mentioned Arthur Treacher's, and another helpfully wrote to say there's still one in Hermitage, Mercer County (and there's a new one Downtown, too).

And Lori DeLuca of Mt. Lebanon closes out our column with a little story:

"Winky's hamburgers were the best," she wrote, "and there was a restaurant right down the hill on Library Road from my house. When I was in kindergarten, my parents had their kitchen remodeled, and since we had no way to make food, I got to eat Winky's every day for a week for lunch. I remember thinking that was the best week of my life."

Thanks for the memories, folks. This has been fun.

Demos/speakers

Saturday: Gluten-free Halloween treats, noon to 2 p.m. at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, McMurray. Gluten-free baker Lori Karavolis demonstrates two treat recipes and hands out samples, recipes and kids' treat bags. Free, but register ahead: 724-942-5800.

Also Saturday: Italian Garden Project demonstrates homemade sausage making, 11:30 a.m. at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District.

Wednesday: Dr. Vandana Shiva, renowned environmentalist, speaks at 6 p.m. in the GRW Theatre, Point Park University. Dr. Shiva will discuss her research in science, technology and environmental policy as well as her work changing practices of agriculture and the food industry. Free, but register ahead: pointpark.edu/ces.

Cookbook signings

Both events will be held at In the Kitchen, Strip District (shopinthekitchen.com).

Monday: Lidia Bastianich signs her new cookbook, "Lidia's Italy in America," 3 p.m.

Nov. 4: Anupy Singla, author of "The Indian Slow Cooker," 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Benefits

Nov. 5: Hearts & Hands Gala, 6:30 p.m. at Scotus Hall, Mt. Alvernia campus of the Sisters of St. Francis, Millvale. Live auction with artwork created by the sisters, local artists and clients of partner agencies. Also: Silent auction, live music, wine and food from local restaurants. $50. changeaheartvolunteers.org/Pages/Gala.html.

Also Nov. 5: Pasta Dinner, 4 to 8 p.m. at Wilkins School Community Center, Swissvale. Includes games, activities and a salsa lesson. $15 adults; $10 students; benefits Children's International Summer Villages, an organization that promotes global peace and friendship through programs for young people. pitt.cisvusa.org.

Freebies

Tomorrow: Free Scary Face Pancake giveaway, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at IHOP restaurants. One free pancake per child for ages 12 and under. ihop.com.

Halloweenish cookbook

Looking for a Halloween party theme? How about dead celebrities?

Frank DeCaro, former movie critic on "The Daily Show" with John Stewart, has compiled favorite recipes from 145 deceased Hollywood stars to create "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook." You'll find favorites from Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Sunny Bono, Liberace, Michael Jackson, John Denver and more. Cover price $19.95; in bookstores or from online booksellers. deadcelebritycookbook.com.

Trick-or-treat candy

If I were still young enough to go trick-or-treating, here's what I'd want in my plastic pumpkin: Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs, made with "70 percent Croakoa" and packaged with collectible cards picturing famous wizards and witches. Find 'em online or at Village Candy in Sewickley.

State food: tofu?

Prompted by my Sept. 15 and Sept. 29 columns on naming an official Pennsylvania state food, PETA has proposed tofu.

Huh?

Apparently, Pennsylvanian Ben Franklin was the first American on record to promote tofu in a 1770 letter to a friend, in which he described "tau-fu" from China.

PETA also says we're, in a word, fat.

That said, I suspect our citizenry will nonetheless struggle to rally around the tofu cause. Please pass the pierogies.


Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com


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