Site icon Karen M. Free

My Top 8 Most Memorable Foods from the 1970s

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Still digesting my holiday leftovers, I’ve been thinking of all sorts of popular foods from the 1970s, when they were often marketed as healthy, cool, and exciting. The catchy jingles on television had me asking Mom to buy canned ham, marshmallow paste, and caramelized popcorn. While these items are still made now, I will always think of them as a memorable part of my ‘70s childhood.

And like a traditional meal, we’ll start with nutritious food and end with sweets.

1. White bread – Wonder Bread® and Sunbeam Bread®

Back in the 1970s, white bread was considered good for you. Fresh from the bag, this bread was also fun to pick apart and roll into little balls. Every day Mom made my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, secured it in plastic wrap, and put an apple next to it in my lunchbox. By lunchtime, all the jostling with the apple had compressed my sandwich into a gooey pancake.

The commercials below advertise squeezable freshness and a guarantee for hole-free bread.

Talking bread bags below are “The Fresh Guys.”

The 5 free loaf Sunbeam guarantee. “Look Mom, no holes.”

2. Kretschmer® Wheat Germ

My mother was enthusiastic about wheat germ and the ads from women’s magazines archived online are quite earnest. My cereal was already low-sugar wheat cubes or ring-shaped oats, but this was an extra dose of health she encouraged me to accept.

Like many others, she experimented with putting wheat germ into all sorts of cuisine both sweet and savory. Her wheat germ meatloaf had a gritty texture that made us both laugh. More wheat than meat, we agreed.

3. Velveeta® – Pasteurized process cheese spread

One of my favorite foods in the ’70s was this orange, creamy goodness that melts smoothly into pasta or can be quickly sliced and sandwiched on white bread. Velveeta was first invented in New York by Emil Frey of the “Monroe Cheese Company” in 1918 and became popular in the 1930s.

Advertisements claimed the health benefits and The American Medical Association gave Velveeta its seal of approval in the 1930s. It’s been reformulated since the 1970s and is now labeled as a pasteurized prepared cheese product.

Jingle:”There’s no single cheese like Velveeta. Cause Velveeta is more than one single cheese.”

4. Spam® – Canned pork meat

This tasty, cooked pork can be sliced to make a quick sandwich out of the can or fried first. When Spam was introduced in 1937, its slogan was, “The Meat of Many Uses.” The Spam website states that 70 percent of urban Americans were eating SPAM products by 1940.

Jingle: “You don’t say ham, you say Spam.”

5. Jiffy Pop® – Pre-packaged pan of foil-wrapped popcorn kernels and flavoring

Most of our popcorn was cooked the messy way, with corn kernels soaked in oil in a pan on the stove. I remember the danger of taking the metal cover off the pan, thinking it was done, only to have late-blooming hot kernels shoot at my face. When pouring the popcorn into a bowl, burned kernels would always be stuck to the bottom and the pan would have to soak.

So, what’s safer, more entertaining, and more carefree than watching foil expand as the popcorn kernels come to life? And it always had so much more flavor than our homemade popcorn. My reaction was as enthusiastic as the girl in the video below. She says, “It’s fun to watch too.”

6. Jell-O® – Gelatin Molds with fruit  

The first time I looked in the refrigerator and saw a bunt cake gelatin mold with fruit I wondered what magic Mom used to get canned peaches inside the solidified gelatin. But it was that first fruit salad that revealed my hesitancy to eat jiggly dessert. Sure, it was amusing to watch it wobble on the plate, but I preferred all things crunchy, chewy, or frozen.

Jell-O was marketed as a product that shows your family and friends that you care about them

Jingle below: “Make some fun.”

This ad below brags, “If it was there, you’d eat it.”

7. Cracker Jack®– Carmel-coated popcorn with molasses flavor, peanuts, and a prize

This was a treat for special occasions and outings. I remember being excited about the surprise toy and digging through the full box to find it. I once got a purple whistle that delighted the family when I played it in the car.

The Cracker Jack slogan, “The more you eat the more you want” was registered in 1896.

Jingle below: “You call that kid a Cracker Jack.”

8. Fluff® – Marshmallow spread

One morning before school, my mother pulled a jar of Fluff out of the kitchen cabinet and asked if I wanted that or jelly on my peanut butter sandwich. My eyes widened. That was my introduction to the magical world of spreadable marshmallows. But it was a scarce treat, as she claimed it was expensive, which I now realize she often said when I wanted more sweets.

According to the Fluff website, it was first sold in 1917, by Archibald Query, a Massachusetts man who made it in his kitchen and sold it door to door, until he stopped due to supply shortages during World War I. He sold the recipe in 1920. 

Below is Fluffernutter jingle with instructions for sandwich assembly.

That’s a look back at my most memorable foods from the 1970s. They were all quite trendy back then and had so much pizzazz! A catchy jingle sure does help. I’m missing lots of other products that just weren’t in my home, like Hamburger Helper® and Shake‘N Bake®. What other favorites from the ‘70s are missing from this list?

If you’re a bit hungry after reading this, take a look at some cakes from the past in my post, 3 Sisters, 3 Cakes – a Brief Family Portrait Through Cake.

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