There are certain snacks and sips that were just too good to last forever -- but they damn well should have! Some really great ideas didn't last much past their initial hype; the companies responsible hurled them almost as quickly as they'd unfurled them. And while discontinued items do, on occasion, pop up on eBay or Amazon, they cost tens to hundreds of dollars more than their original price tags -- and are lo-o-ong past their "use by" dates. So those of us who harbor sentimental attachments to products that got the ax can do little more than recall fond food memories.
Here are five retro foods and drinks that need to be resurrected. These products may be gone, but complaining about their loss lives on.
5. Crystal Pepsi The early 1990s would not have been the same without this strikingly clear, amazingly _____ flavored soda. Pepsi clearly owned the last half of the 1980s, until people suddenly remembered that despite the ritzy ads that Pepsi Co. coughed up, Coke (classic, that is) tasted better and was a far superior product. Then Pepsi trotted out its version of the anti-Sprite, and we were perplexed; we were interested, we were hooked. Crystal Pepsi was everywhere. All the cool people were drinking it and I was swilling the stuff by the case. This strange, unidentified-tasting soda seemed to represent Generation X -- weird, quirky, confusing and gone way too fast.
Pepsi pulled the plug on the colorless pop in 1993, ostensibly due to low sales, but it's highly possible that there was a widespread conspiracy to deprive the population of this sparkling beverage treat, and it's also possible that Doctor Who was involved. There is, right now, an unopened can of Crystal Pepsi listed on eBay for $45, with one solid bid, and with any luck, the proud owner of this single can will get to relive 1993 by downing the maybe-vanilla, maybe-citrus cola with relish. The rest of us should be so lucky.
4. Little Debbie coconut sticks America really does love Little Debbie, purveyors of such iconic wrapped snacks as oatmeal creme pies, Swiss rolls and donut sticks. Debbie manages to come up with some unnaturally colored, icing-covered snack cakes and cookies for every occasion -- holidays, birthdays (if you are a cheap jerk), and every day in between. The company also has this incredibly wicked habit of introducing something new, exciting and seasonal, then snatching it away permanently, just when people are starting to get used to it being around. Case in point: Little Debbie coconut sticks.
These shockingly delicious bastard cousins to the nutty bars were twin packs of rectangular wafer cookies filled with a sweet, overly-coconuted cream filling, iced with LD's signature waxy, melty white icing, and sprinkled with liberal amounts of toasted coconut. They had too much sugar, too much fat, too many overall calories for normal humans to digest, and they tasted like a mouthful of tanning lotion, but they were the best snack Debbie's has ever dreamed up. Around for a while in the late 1980s/early '90s, they are now a distant memory to the company, which doesn't even list them on its website. And when you call customer service to ask if they will ever make a comeback, you get some befuddled excuses, clearly showing that today's Little Debbie employees do not remember them.
But some of us remember -- and wait patiently for the day when these precious unicorns of the snack-cake world make a triumphant return to store shelves.
3. White grape sparkling Jell-O Discontinuing the sparkling, white grape-flavored Jell-O is by far Jell-O's biggest "WTF!!" moment. (Its second biggest one is not keeping Jell-O pudding pops, but that's a fevered rant for another day.) Adding cheap champagne to this stuff made the absolute be-all-end-all of Jell-O shots, and I daresay the combination ever-so-briefly brought Jell-O shots up to a semi-respectable, almost classy place for about a minute -- until the boxes inexplicably disappeared from stores at the very height of their popularity. It doesn't make sense: Jell-O kept that crack-nasty "blue"-flavored gelatin, the orange one that is only popular in Utah (they do a thing with carrots and raisins there that tastes like pain and illness), and it kept on making those horrible, watery cups that put hospital servings to shame. Meanwhile, it banished the best flavor -- to the anguish of bowling alley patrons, sorority party-goers and holiday fun drunks everywhere.
Sure, it's possible to re-create the sparkling effect with the current lineup of Jell-O, but it really isn't the same, since obviously white grape and sparkling wine go together like a goat and a tub of Vaseline. If the folks at Jell-O would just decide to stop being crud-munchers and bring it back seasonally, everyone could -- and should -- stock up by the case.
2. The Bigfoot pizza from Pizza Hut I'm sure I'm not the only lucky kid whose single dad eschewed cooking food -- except for magnificent breakfast feasts, which are dad specialties. I was lucky as hell that, instead of my pops trying to zap things in the microwave, he instead ordered a couple of Pizza Hut's Bigfoot pizzas, and we ate those until they ran out, then he ordered more. It was beautiful -- all the food groups represented, with extra mushrooms and black olives. Those humongous, rectangular pies were so big they didn't even come in boxes, just white paper-bag-like structures. Each pizza had a thin-to-medium but still nice and chewy crust, sauce to the edges and two to four pepperoni rounds per slice (yes, I counted). The Bigfoot made big footprints in the early '90s, then disappeared.
Pizza Hut hasn't given customers a comparable pie since then -- nothing large and well-made, like the Bigfoot. You might get one or the other, but not both. The Hut's latest offering is proof of that: The new pie in the sun is a monstrosity with its signature rubbery mozzarella baked into little buns in lieu of an outer crust. It makes me long for the too-short era when Pizza Hut at least pretended to be innovative -- and made decent pizzas.
1. Wasabi Funyuns There is a Facebook page dedicated to the restoration of Wasabi Funyuns. I'm hoping it gets millions of "likes," and hoping even more fervently that Frito-Lay will bring them back. Regular Funyuns are a creation of pure genius; portable, shelf-stable onion rings is an invention right up there with the creation of the smallpox vaccine. And the concept of adding a light dusting -- okay, more accurately an uneven layer -- of pale green wasabi powder to them brought tears to my eyes, both figuratively and literally. These were yet another gift brought to the population courtesy of the wacky 1990s, and I recall buying a bag every day after school at a local convenience store, having the misanthropic clerk eyeball me suspiciously, then look amazed that I didn't steal anything. My favorite part of these fresh-breath-destroying chips was when I'd hit a particularly wasabi-powdered bite, sniff and cry a little at the intense sinus pain, then eat another one -- a bit of middle-school-esque hair of the dog, if you will.
And why should Frito-Lay bring back Wasabi Funyuns? Because at the time they came out, people just weren't ready for them, and more intense flavors like wasabi weren't as marketable as they are now. Wasabi used to be exotic -- something you got a dab of with a plate of raw tuna rolls -- but today it's just another spicy flavor that is easily recognizable, generally accepted, and known to pair well with onion. Wasabi Funyuns were ahead of their time, but now we are ready and waiting. And frankly, Frito-Lay still owes us one for foisting those anal-leakage-inducing Olestra chips on the trusting, snack chip-eating public.
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