Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Junk Food History

I had such a fun day yesterday!  I continued my "birthday week" with a trip to Stoughton, Wisconsin with my wonderful sister Jen.  We visited an antique mall there, and while there were a lot of clothes and books for sale (two things I really don't collect), I did manage to score these:

What's even more fantastic is that I thought I was just getting a lot of the Jay's bags - I had NO idea that I was hitting the motherlode of vintage cellophane junk food packaging!  :D

When you think about it, "junk food" is such a weird thing, isn't it?  In our grand scheme of things, the food itself is not only pretty new, but the concept of snack food is preposterous, isn't it?

Up until about 100 years ago, most of us were too concerned about merely surviving to concern ourselves with leisure activities, let alone leisure FOOD.  Who was going to make it, anyway - the woman of the household?  Oh, sure!  After three meals a day plus an occasional dessert, I'm sure she'd be THRILLED to whip up a batch of deep-fried potatoes or some weird corn things with seasoning!  I'm pretty sure popcorn was a real treat in most households, unless you lived in Iowa during harvest time.

Here are a couple of really early examples of packaged snack foods - "Reed's Original Cheez Korn Kinx", from Reed's Food Products in Darien, Wisconsin; and Pagel's Potato Chips from Pagel's Bakery in Watertown, Wisconsin (both towns are very south-central Wisconsin, close to Janesville and/or Racine).  I love the early misspelling of words - it was like the bakery's way of letting the consumer know that what they were about to eat was not really "food", per se, so they didn't have to spell it correctly.  Oh, and I think our days of using the word "kinx" in any sort of food product are over, too - it's taken on quite a different meaning since the '70s.  :D  That Pagel's bag is my favorite of the entire bunch - LOVE that red!

The Jay's and Fritos bags are the national brands in the bunch.  There is a copyright of 1961 on the Fritos bag, and just by the look of the Jay's bag I'm going to assume it's from around the same time period.  I LOVE that old Frito-Lay logo with the wavy "F" and "L" combined!  Once again we have some misspelling on the Fritos bag - they're "truly krisp and tender".  What does this mean?!  Is there a reason they couldn't spell "crisp" correctly?  The mind reels.

Here's another Frito-Lay product:  Red Dot popcorn.  That clown is muy creepy, yes?  There is NO WAY you could get away with that today, unless it was distributed around Halloween.  Clowns are no longer acceptable on any childrens' or "fun" food items - thank you, Stephen King!  But I love it nevertheless, because the font is marvelous

You may remember this post about potato chips, more early examples of packaged "junk food" (which, etymologically speaking, was coined in 1971 or '72).  If we want to trace the obesity trend in the US, here's a good place to start.  In the meantime, these bags help us to fondly recall a time in our history when they were truly a treat, as opposed to a staple, in our diets.

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