Kat read an Eater article the other day about the return of the Viennetta ice cream cake — and how we realize as adults that some “fancy” foods from our childhoods weren’t so fancy after all. We thought it would make for a fun open thread today — especially because right now we all could use some light and happy conversation topics…
So, do tell: What were your favorite “fancy” foods from your childhood that didn’t quite seem that way once you grew up? (What grocery products of 2021 do you think will be thought of the same way?)
When I was a kid, it felt special when my parents bought a Friendly’s Jubilee Roll — it seemed like a step up from regular ice cream. Cheese balls (not to be confused with Cheez Balls, ha) also seemed a bit “upscale” to me when my mom made them. Speaking of cheese, Kat remembers Alouette’s garlic & herb cheese spread as a fancy-seeming food. Certain Pepperidge Farm cookies (Brussels, for one), as well as Piroulines, were also in this category.
What about you, readers? Tell us the “fancy” foods of your childhood that you realized were pretty much run-of-the-mill when you grew up. What are your favorite nostalgia foods in general? (And who else is now craving ice cream?)
Fancy crackers. Will still default to Triscuits or Ritz if given the option.
Separate issue: In order to bring my dad home, we have to figure out how to make our house wheelchair accessible. It is a quad level house. The best option is to build an accessible addition to the main level. We have looked at every other option and this is the best one for us. We’ve never had this sort of serious renovation to our house. What tips do you have? It shouldn’t require us to move (and if we do have to spend time elsewhere, we’d go to my grandparents’ house a mile away, they’re in our pod) so we don’t need tips about moving/packing up. Obviously not ideal to have this done during COVID but it’s better than my dad living in a nursing home during COVID….
We have made some accessibility mods for a family member. Don’t expect to get any money back. Consider if his needs will be relatively static or worsen (this changes how you remodel). Be realistic about his needs – will he really shower every day and needs a roll-in shower, or will he end up using bed baths generally? Did he cook before and can he cook now (are kitchen mods needed)? You’ll find he probably uses less spaces than he did before and others have to help him instead.
You didn’t want this advice, but it’s usually easier to move if you need significant modifications.
He may have some improvement over time, but likely will remain in a wheelchair or walker long-term.
Honestly, you probably should move. A quad level house is incredibly unfriendly for disabled persons.
However if you’re determined to stay, I think this depends on the mobility of the person at hand. Does your dad require full time wheelchair use or can he use a walker for limited amounts of time? I think you could make this work if on the main floor where you have the primary rooms you have a bedroom with large walk in shower (with flat floor, not stumps to keep the water in- essentially requiring you to have a wet room), and install a motorized chair to move up and down the short staircases – this is most helpful if they can use a walker for limited amounts of time on non-primary floors. If you quad has main rooms of the house on various levels and your father requires full time wheelchair, you might consider moving. Other things to think about are:
Moving or selling furniture so that there are clear wheelchair wide paths to all the main rooms
Widening the kitchen or demolishing a kitchen island for pathway ease
Changing outdoor steps to a ramp
The mental toll if the other three levels of the house include the majority of the common rooms and how lonely they will be unable to join.
my parents had to make their house more accessible for my mom. it is a 2 story house with a basement. they put in a ramp so my mom could access the house via wheelchair through the front door (previously she entered through the garage), they added a half bath on the first floor bc the one they had required too many steps, and they added a chairlift to get her to the second floor where her bedroom was. there was a wheelchair on each floor. i think part of the chairlift was covered by insurance, but the rest was not
I would be concerned about the home’s resale value if the modifications were obvious and haphazard. Look into universal design, which should be a plus or at least not a negative in terms of resale. I’d also be concerned about the time required to complete the renovations. At least in my area, there are long waits for contractors and shortages of building materials. If you are trying to spring him from the nursing home fast, what about renting a ground-floor apartment with an outdoor entrance?
Yes, the shortage of labor (and skyrocketing labor and material costs) right now should definitely be a consideration!
Luckily we have a contractor already- family friend who can get it done this winter. We’re definitely planning to blend it in to the rest of the house, it won’t be haphazard.
Additions that add on conventional spaces (like a living room or a master suite) often don’t recoup costs upon selling, so I would expect that this specialized addition would be an almost certain net loss.
I would seriously consider moving, as a quad level (even with modifications) is significantly more difficult to live in than a single or even two level home with a first floor bedroom suite. I know moving can seem like too much upheaval (particularly in this period of change for your family), but an addition with major structural changes can be nearly as disruptive and is certainly more expensive than a move.
I hope you and your family are doing as well as can be expected!
Thanks, all. Moving isn’t an option, but there were certainly some ideas/tips to consider.
In my area construction material costs are sky high. I know several people who had plans to build and are now holding off on doing so. Would your zoning allow for a prefab granny pod? Some of them are not completely unattractive and it could possibly be repurposed or resold if he ends up needing to go into assisted living in the future.
Involve an occupational therapist in the planning, design and selection of fittings. I’m a wheelchair user and they’ve made my house easier for me to use.
My friend did this for her brother who had a stroke in his 30s. She did a beautiful job adding a large bathroom, making some changes so that her dining room could be used as a bedroom when he stayed and creating a wheelchair lift for him to be able to get into the house. At the same time, she renovated her kitchen and added a family room, all designed o be accessible. I believe she worked with an architect who had specific qualifications in accessible design.
This is likely overkill for your needs, but I have a family member who uses a power chair. Their disability affects arms as well as legs. Wide hallways and doorways (the more open span, the better), lower easy to push light switches, consider remote or voice operated shades and lights, extra wall outlets for medical equipment/hospital bed/power wheelchair, roll-in shower rainshower with optional hand sprayer that will fit a shower chair (ours is completely open and if someone wanted to glass it in later, they could without shouting “accessible shower”), high-height toilet with grab bars and room to park the chair next to it for transfer. Make sure that there is room under the sink for the chair- no pedestal sinks – and counters/mirrors should be lower. If he can transfer himself, that makes things easier. We installed an overhead hoist system, but some people get portable hoyer lifts. We also lowered a portion of the kitchen counter with room under it for the chair. Get a medical alert company with a pendent that he wears if he’s going to be home alone and falls while transferring. Ramps are much better than lifts in my opinion (lifts can break over time and in emergency situations) but you need a surprising amount of room to make them accessible and not too steep.
I grew up in a rural area where the closest restaurant was a 45 minute drive. My parents were and are very (over-cooked) meat and potatoes kind of people. I got to college having never tried so many foods.
I thought sushi and hummus were both So Interesting and Highbrow.
My husband referred to hummus as Fancy Dip last week.
DH tried sushi for the first time in college! I grew up in Asia. Ferrero Rocher and Danish butter cookies in blue tins were fancy; when my grandmother made pasta it was from a pasta sides packet (that was fancy, even though she made an amazing homestyle Asian feast for the entire family every night).
Omg yes as an fellow Asian, Ferrero rocher was such a fancy treat
I grew up in the USSR
Even the chewing gum was fancy
And everything American or western
Hey I’m not the only child of the USSR here! My sister and I still bring each other Russian chocolates (mishka kosolapiy) for holidays because we’re so fancy now :)
Mishka candies!! I lived in Krasnoyarsk where they are from for a while )). I’m not Russian but gosh those candies were good.
My husband has distinct memories of his aunt (who lived in the US) shipping them boxes of cereal to his family in Poland and thinking it was the most incredible, strange food.
I have been really unsettled and anxious since last week’s attempted coup. As a minority, the last few years have been particularly difficult. I have been donating to organizations who are fighting the good fight, but I would like to DO something. I’m just not sure what and other than writing to my reps (which I am doing), I am not sure what else I can do. Is there any organization working directly to support the victims of last week’s events or whose mission is vital to ensuring something like this never happens again? I know I am probably thinking of this too simplisticly – but I am scared and worried and I think knowing I am DOING SOMETHING, anything, would help.
It’s good to stay alert and to try to do something. I don’t have any specific advice other than try to talk to your family and friends about the seriousness of the situation. I am already seeing a lot of “I think we should just move on” and “let’s not be more divisive,” but I do not believe that healing can take place without the rule of law being applied. We don’t say to murder victims “well, let’s not prosecute the case since it would be better to just move on.” We shouldn’t do it here either. There is no legitimate reason why the laws of our nation and the principles of justice and equal treatment under the law should become suddenly void just because of politics.
When is Ted Cruz up for re-election? And what organization is doing effective voter outreach in Texas? I am planning on supporting any Republican challengers in his primary and the Democratic challenger. And the same goes for the other Senators who joined in the challenges to the electoral college results.
Any tea in a fancy looking box seems expensive to me! I drink tea all the time (mostly loose-leaf) but every time I buy a box of tea bags I always hesitate about it.
oil in houston
funny, I’m the other way round! I drink tea bags all the time, but always hesitate to drink my ‘good’ loose-leaf
Yes, my loose leaf tea is a lot fancier and more expensive than tea bags because I’m a tea snob.
Coffee Crisp candy bars. My mom used to eat one occasionally and I thought they were so elegant and sophisticated. We kids couldn’t have one because “we wouldn’t like it”. Also mom used to have Instant Breakfast drink powder (man, the 70s) for her breakfasts and I always thought it was very fancy when she would let me have one. I liked the vanilla flavor.
Caramello! I didn’t realize that until I read your comment.
Those International instant coffee tins! Honestly I drank these right up through college when I then got a job as a barista, which was the first time I’d ever really had espresso. Also any lettuce besides iceberg or romaine, any bread that didn’t come pre-sliced. I was 20 before I had sushi. Honestly the 80s/90s were just really different food wise.
Same with the International Coffee! Twelve year old me was fascinated with them.
I loved all of those international coffees in the tin boxes… thought they were sophisticated.
Kinder Eggs and Toblerone because they were synonymous with “international travel” in my childhood. As a teen, I definitely thought those orange shaped chocolates from Bed Bath and Beyond were pretty sophisticated.
Wow, this thread is bringing back a lot of memories. Same for me with Kinder Eggs. My uncle used to bring them back from Germany for us and we felt so sophisticated getting candy with mysterious German writing on the labels.
Andes candies always remind me of visiting my Grandma as a child. I made a cookie recipe at Christmas last month with them and that nostalgia came flooding back to me.
An Italian restaurant my family went to when I was a kid had Andes mints at the counter. They were 5 cents each, and I would beg my parents for one, then savor it in the car by taking tiny bites :-)
Real Oreos instead of store brand or Hydrox. Any brand of soda instead of store brand — we were allowed one can of a store brand soda a week. I used to get a box of After Eight Mints as one of my Christmas gifts. Getting a whole, fresh carrot just for me – I didn’t know that you were allowed to eat an entire carrot. I didn’t eat Cheez-Its until I was in my 20s, and I still think they are special, and I buy them only for holidays, but every single minor holiday counts!
I remember once I went to a classmates house for dinner, and her mom offered second helpings. I thought that was really fancy and rich, at my house kids got yelled at if they asked for more food.
+1 to your last paragraph. My mom would feed a family of four on one box of Kraft Dinner. No wonder we were skinny kids.
What a fun topic. I remember thinking that pasta with pesto sauce was something a sophisticated career woman would eat for dinner. I was lead to believe that fancy meals would involved sorbet between courses, which I’ve never encountered other than at wedding receptions! I also thought Symphony bars were fancy and felt so impressed when the school librarian gave me one for shelving books for her during recess.
As a sophisticated career woman I have been known to have pasta with pesto sauce for dinner. Shelf stable and ready in 15 minutes!
Another one of my childhood hits! Symphony bars seemed extra special, like chocolate made only for the most discerning classical music fans.
Our neighbors used to have candy dishes filled with Dutch mints — soft peppermint, coated in chocolate, with a hard candy shell in pink, white, or mint green. Shaped kind of like small gumdrops. I thought that was the fanciest thing ever!!
Not when I was a child, but in college, late 80s….we all thought that The Silver Palate cookbook was fancy and we would make different dishes from it….with couscous! I still have the cookbook and still use it
Grey Poupon! I totally bought into the advertising hype. I thought it was for fancy people.
I had the same impression from the Polaner All Fruit commercial (“please pass the jelly” and the lady faints!)
After dinner mints at restaurants with the little spoon in the dish (though now thanks to Gilmore Girls, I can only think of them as “urine mints.” Ew.)
Pizza Hut. We didn’t go out to eat very often, and we lived in a rural community with limited dining options, to say the least. The Hut was fine dining, man. And actually, I still love it, and if you can manage to find an actual sit-in restaurant as opposed to delivery, it is on a whole other level of deliciousness.
Clearly whatever food snobbery I’ve developed in adulthood has its limits!
I love Pizza Hut too!
Pizza hut is awesome.
Yes, same here! I forgot how great dining in at Pizza Hut was, with the personal pan pizzas!
Same!! Going to the Pizza Hut in the nearest big (~9000 people) town on the way back to our tiny town from high school sports trips was a Very Big Deal.
My family ate out maybe two or three times a year, always at Pizza Hut or Sizzler. I thought salad bars were the height of luxury.
Pizza Hut is still my favourite pizza (outside of like, traditional thin crust pizza baked in a brick oven in Italy).
My parents were very crunchy types who made everything from scratch, so a lot of store bought stuff felt very fancy to me. The most notable ones are Entemann’s raspberry breakfast danishes and petit fours, both of which I associate with my grandmother. She always bought big trays of petit fours for her annual Christmas party and I thought they were just the fanciest thing in the world.
Delphia cake (named for a brand of coconut shortening) made from chocolate, shortening, eggs and some very dry sweet crackers.
Mixed noodles (multiple shapes!) with mixed cheese (american AND parmesan from the shakers). SO FANCY. Also ravioli.
Not food, but when I was a kid my aunt and uncle had a fridge with a water/ice dispenser and I thought that was the fanciest thing. I always got excited when we went there on Thanksgiving to fill my cup with ice!
Giant tubs of butter cookies. And the smorgasbord restaurant in my town, which offered treats such as green jello served in glass bowls on doilies.
Fresh vegetables instead of frozen. Anything with garlic, onions, spice, or sauce.
Hello, fellow traveler :)
S’mores pop tarts, because only the Pop Tarts brand made them. We only got store brand at home, so the s’mores flavor was a special treat we got at granny’s.
This is a fun one! Brie cheese, brown mustard, real maple syrup, real butter, cornish game hens, artichokes.
These things are fancy to me now! I don’t think I knew they existed when I was a kid :-) Well, I guess I knew real butter existed, but my mom always bought margarine, and I wouldn’t have known there was that big of a difference.
Yes to brie! Mainly thanks to 10 Things I Hate About You, which was the first time I heard of brie. “That must be Nigel with the brie!” is an often quoted line in my family.
This post made me smile. Everything pictured was considered fancy as a child! We only had After Eights at Christmas. . . .
Chicken in a Biskit crackers — they only came out at fancy parties. And Lunchables!
The After Eight mints! When I was a kid, those were “mommy and daddy candy,” meaning they were stored in a cupboard that my sister and I couldn’t reach, and were for my parents to enjoy (usually after we’d gone to bed). Brussels cookies were in the same category. My poor parents, eventually my sister and I got old enough to figure out how to step on a chair/climb on the counter and reach the mommy and daddy candy, which kind of went by the wayside soon after. But After Eight mints will always seem fancy to me.
I loved this picture/article because one of the things my high school friends and I used to do (and feel very fancy about it) was buy a Viennetta and serve it to ourselves on my friend’s mom’s china, at her dining room table. We thought those Viennettas were the height of elegance, man.
Other things that were fancy to me:
– Smoked salmon (I never had it until I went to a fancy brunch at the hotel I was staying at with my debate team in college)
– Croissants (we had crescent rolls from Pillsbury but I did not have a real croissant until much later in my life)
– Squid ink pasta – I first had it at a dinner party in college hosted by someone who worked in a specialty food store.
– Any cheese that didn’t come in a big block that we could grate – goat cheese was particularly fancy to me (and I still love it)
– Prime rib is one of those things that I still think of as fancy as we would go to dinner at a fancy restaurant once a year for my dad’s work holiday party, and they had a choice of either prime rib or chicken breast as the entree. We had chicken all the time at home so we always got the prime rib. I never even liked it all that much but it was fun to feel fancy.
Yes! I had fun trying to explain crescent rolls and their place in the American heart to a French friend.
The “specialty” Campbells soups that are in a separate section in weird flavors like crab bisque and won ton (???)
Frango mints, Pepperidge Farm Milanos, cranberry sauce that wasn’t “canberry” sauce, Waldorf salad, and yes, Vienetta. I loved that stuff, regardless of considering it to be fancy, and can not wait to get my hands on one.
Vienetta is the classic fancy food to me. I have not had it to this day and was stunned when, as an adult, I found it in the regular freezer section. Also for some reason Mrs. Dash. And Boursin cheese.
Sweetened condensed milk. Straight out of the can. Those on this blog who share my former Soviet Union lineage will understand the appeal.