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Growing Up in the 90s: #2 Food

We have now grown in age, and with that comes an understanding, of the need to control our impulses and eat healthy. Things were different when we were younger.

Anyone who knew me as a young lad would know that I rarely, if ever, ate any meals or snacks outside of those at home. Yet, in researching this topic, I found myself remembering many more foodstuffs and snacks that I may not have indulged in as much, but which I definitely remember, especially for their catchy advertising jingles and taglines.

So here is a list of items which were a big part of my childhood, and perhaps yours too. It is by no means comprehensive. I’m sure I must have missed some. These are just the ones that come to my mind right away.

First, the drinks, more specifically, soft drinks and Frooti. While these days there are enough soft drinks in the market to make your head spin, it was a far simpler and easier selection those days.

There was quite a range, and here we have Limca, Gold Spot, Citra, Maaza and Thums Up. Today we have learnt that soft drinks have no nutritional value, and that they can cause all sorts of health problems, and are to be avoided. In the 90s however, they were seen as just a harmless welcome indulgence, especially in the hot summer months. And parents willingly indulged their kids. I always liked Citra and Gold Spot. Maaza was for when I wasn’t in the mood for some fizz. The older versions of Thums Up and Limca were just a bit too strong for me.

I always found it strange that while the mango drinks Frooti and Maaza were similar in taste, Frooti was always sold in a 200 ml. tetra pack and drunk with a straw, while Maaza was sold in a bigger bottle. The tetrapack had a novelty about it, and I imagined the drinks to taste different, all because of the packing. However, no favourites here. Just that Frooti was the drink to carry on a trip since it was sold in a tetra pack and could be drunk with a hygienic straw, compared to Maaza that had to be glugged from the bottle. I still remember my Mom cleaning the mouth of every fizzy drink bottle with a hankie before letting me drink.

One strange and quaint item was the sweet Phantom cigarettes candy. Basically, these were candy shaped in the form of a cigarette, and packed like one too. I guess in those days people were not very worried about the bad influence it might have on young impressionable minds. Me and my friends used to pretend we were smoking when playing games, quite hilarious when you think of it. Mind you, you could not keep it in your mouth for too long as the candy would end up melting.

These days, we often joke about a packet of chips containing around 90 percent air and 10 percent chips. But before Lays came and ruined everyone's childhood, we had Uncle Chipps’. You could find it everywhere, and like Frooti, it was a staple of long drives and longer train journeys. You could find it at any train station, and a bag would contain a lot of chips, well, at least compared to Lays. I seem to remember that there were plain salted and masala flavors those days. I couldn’t stand the plain ones, and much preferred the masala variant. I can still remember the ad’s slogan ‘Bole mere lips, I love Uncle Chipps!’

Oh, before I forget, here are two more items which were very popular during summer months. Popsicles and shaved ice on a stick. Both were basically sweet icy candies which you would have during a hot summer day to cool you down. For the popsicles, you had to bite off a piece of the plastic wrap from one end and suck the icy juice as it melted. I didn’t really eat either of these, as my Mom warned me that they were being made in unhygienic conditions and would bring on an upset tummy. No big loss for me as I really hated brain freeze.

Eating outside at a restaurant then was extremely rare. It mostly only meant a masala dosa at the Woodlands in Baroda, which was across the street from my parents’ office. It was a treat for special occasions.

The one time I got to try something really new and unique was at a friend's birthday party. I was around 10 years and remember clearly the pizza I had for the first time. It was a homemade pizza at that birthday party. I saw it come out from the oven, this enticing, mouth watering round shape with vegetables and cheese on it, and was equally fascinated by the circular pizza cutter as it rolled and cut the pizza into pieces . It kind of resembled the homemade pizzas that I have learnt to make these days.It was delicious.

These are the flavours of my childhood. Whenever I got these foods, I enjoyed them thoroughly and relished them a lot. Often, I wished there were some more. But today, when I can afford to buy as many toffees, candies, soft drinks and chips as I want to, common sense and my expanding waistline automatically stops me from doing so. Life is indeed strange. I wish I was 10 years old again.

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