For some reason last night -- and I say "for some reason" because I was trying to go to sleep at the time -- I got to thinking about Shake 'n Bake. Remember Shake 'n Bake? I seem to remember commercials from when I was a kid (early 1970s) touting Shake 'n Bake as some great housewifely invention. Now that all the housewives were working and not at home all day housewiving. Shake 'n Bake would save them oodles of time for when they came home for work and were still expected to clean the house and have dinner on the table by 6:00 p.m. My dad used to insist on that time, by the way. No idea why.
Anyhow, Shake 'n Bake. I think they still make it, but I don't think they make the awesome BBQ Shake 'n Bake flavor any more. Good on pork chops but oh so much better on chicken. Because you left the skin on the chicken before you shook 'n baked.
By the time I learned about Shake 'n Bake -- i.e., when I learned that food doesn't magically appear on the table -- my mom was no longer a stay at home mom, meaning that it was ME Shake 'n Bake was designed to save all that time and trouble. (This was actually part of the commercials. Not the latchkey kid part specifically but it was implied.) By that time in my life, unless I wanted to eat leftovers yet again -- thereby coining the phrase "Starve for Yourself Night"* -- I had to cook. Since I was a lazy little bitch who did nothing all day long (except for pull straight As in school and stuff like that) and I could pull my lazy nose out of that book and get off my lazy ass and cook some dinner. Or else don't bitch about having leftovers again. Yes, my life was like a Norman Rockwell painting; why do you ask?
Anyhow, Shake 'n Bake. While I did understand that food didn't appear on the table magically cooked (at least, not for anybody without a Y chromosome in my house), I remember believing that nobody made their own fried chicken anymore now that Kentucky Fried Chicken existed. But with Shake 'n Bake I could have dinner that was mostly like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Which was good, because I was only 11 and didn't have my license yet.
The best part about shaking and baking on my own was I could pile on the extra BBQ coating that shook off. I saw no reason to waste perfectly good shakey bakey BBQ goodness when all you had to do with pat it into a nice layer on top of whatever it was I was baking. Pork chops worked really well for this.
Saltines were something you ate when you were sick and if your parents tried to make you eat saltines when you were well meant you clearly were not loved. Ritz were special. Ritz were usually only at parties, we had to save those for when company came over. And if you were allowed access to graham crackers and a can of frosting by yourself, you were to be envied by everyone you knew.
I knew a lot of kids for whom Top Ramen was generally forbidden and therefore a special kind of treat when they did get to have it. After my dad left us, we lived on peanut butter and Top Ramen for about a year so it's just now moving back into that treat category for me. I wasn't even all that big on it in college.
I can remember thinking that trail mix was based on some sort of secret recipe. Then I learned about GORP and was concerned that the trail mix people would get upset their secret was out.
Now I'm making myself hungry so I'll stop. But I am curious -- anyone have any regional snacks or dishes that are firmly cemented in childhood or other memories? I'm reading about "hotdish" on Wikipedia and cracking up. I don't think we have that kind of regional cuisine here in the Northwest. Although when folks come to visit we're always saying "Crap! They're going to want fish, aren't they?"
*To this day, I still have a strong aversion to leftovers. Some things are acceptable left over: meat, baked beans, mashed potatos (although not if you already put gravy on top). So many things are not: everything else. My grandma, having been born in the Midwest right around the start of the Great Depression, will make a meal and then pull out six or seven small dishes of stuff where there's just a few bites left of each. I tell her, Grandma - this is why we have dogs. No leftovers!