All Your Childhood Snacks Were Trash

All photos by the author

Last week, at the end of our session, my therapist said, "I think one of the reasons you're unhappy is because you fetishize the past. You continually focus on your youth, and if we're being honest, during that time period you were pretty miserable. I want you to try and be present, take an objective view on things, and stop idealizing what's gone by."

It's solid advice. She's great at her job. At our follow-up session yesterday, my therapist asked if I had given any thought to our previous conversation.

"Yeah. I decided that I'm going to locate and consume my favorite childhood snacks."


"The snacks I had as a child. I loved those things, but objectively they're probably pretty terrible. If I eat them, and the snacks are bad, it means everything I remember was a lie. Everything was always pretty terrible."

"I don't think you understood what I meant," she said.

The truth was that I understood exactly what she meant. I just chose to ignore it. My goal was to put together a listicle of all the best lunchtime snacks (The 90s!) and use that as a jumping off point to talk about how we're all hurtling towards death (Our 90s!). I crowd-sourced the list through a poll on my Facebook account. While some people offered nutritional advice ("I went to a sugar free Montessori school! Fruit Leathers are a decadent treat!") and other shared personal anecdotes ("I moved here when I was eleven! The stuff white people feed their children is literally appalling!") the poll gave me enough raw data to compile a shopping list.

Most of the items were surprisingly still available, though I was sad to learn that I'll never eat Soda Licious again (RIP). At the checkout aisle, the elderly grocer made a comment about how nice it was to see a young father taking initiative with back to school lunches. I sighed and said, "Well, I'm all they've got now." He bagged the rest of the items in silence.

Back at home I enlisted the help of my roommate, comedian and writer Jillian Welsh, to undertake the harrowing task of eating snacks and talking about our fleeting youth. It was my idea to divide the writing into anecdotes, actual taste, and rating. It was Jill's idea to make all the snacks into a charcuterie board. Her rationale was that if we made everything look really pretty then maybe we could forget that we were about to eat garbage.


Anecdote: As a kid I remember frantically begging my mom to buy me Lunchables. The pizza Lunchables were great because I could use the tomato sauce packet for fake blood during our recess wrestling matches. Normal Lunchables were also great because you could make them into tiny sandwiches that resembled actual food. Lunchables were delicious. I loved them.

Taste: Before biting into our tiny sandwiches, Jill pointed out that the "kielbasa" looked shiny. She then made the mistake of reading the label, which informed us that the meat product was made up of chicken, beef, and pork! One meat, three animals! Lucky us! While the cheese tasted processed and the cracker was a bit salty, it was the meat that was overwhelming. It was simultaneously spongy and gritty. Jill pointed out that it smelled like both new car and old shoe. Neither of us finished the cracker sandwich. Vile.

Rating: A half eaten piece of kielbasa out of the three animals that were in the kielbasa.

Fruit by the Foot

Anecdote: In first grade, a kid tried to measure the size of his wiener against the paper left over after you eat a fruit by the foot. Someone snitched and he had to sit behind a bookshelf for two days. Fruit by the foot was one of the A-list desserts of brown bag lunches. It could be traded for pretty much any other snack and was highly sought out in the schoolyard.

Taste: Fruit by the Foot was one of the few snacks we ate that actually lived up to its memory. The red Fruit by the Foot tasted vaguely like actual strawberry, and while the snack stuck to our teeth, we both said we could see eating it again.

Rating: Two days sitting behind a bookshelf out of two.

Crackers and Cheese Product with Red Stick

Anecdote: This was the snack that they had in the office for when kids forgot their lunches at home or couldn't afford food. One day at the store when my mom bought us a pack of crackers and cheese product, I asked if she wanted everyone to think we were poor. She told me that I was spoiled and I didn't get snacks for a week.

Taste: The crackers tasted like crackers, but the cheese sauce was the salty to the point where I needed two sips of Sunny Delight to get the thing down. The only thing the cheese product had to do with cheese is its orange color and its name.

Rating: No snacks for a week.


Anecdote: In my mind Gushers are forever linked with UH-OH, a game show where young children were covered with slime if they didn't know the answers to questions about Canadian geography. Gushers were the major sponsor for the program, which we all thought was awesome, and the snack was as weird as the show. Somehow as kids we collectively agreed that a "fruit" hexagon full of hot juice was something we not only wanted, but desired.

Taste: Have you ever known something was going to explode in your mouth, mentally prepared for it, and then when it happened you were kind of upset anyways? Green Gushers are like that if you add in the taste of Pine Sol. The other colors are slightly better, but still taste as plastic as they look. They were all super gross, but then again the food is called Gushers. I don't know what I wanted.

Rating: Six and a half slime buckets out of seven.

Photo via Flickr user Callie


Anecdote: Dunkaroos were the king of schoolyard snacks. The cookies with the frosting dip were so good that I once traded four packets for a holographic Snorlax card. The kids who had Dunkaroos had status and power in elementary school. You knew that their parents gave them whatever they wanted, and you knew these kids would move onto bigger things.

Taste: Both Jill and I remembered the cookies in Dunkaroos to be small and plentiful, but since we were kids they've been replaced with three larger cookies. Jill said the cookies themselves tasted like baby spit, and the frosting was like birthday cake that had been left in the sun for too long. It was tremendously disappointing. I'm pretty sure this is what Wolfe was talking about when he said you can never go home again.

Ranking: "Child, child, have patience and belief, for life is many days, and each present hour will pass away."

Sunny Delight/Kool-Aid Jammers

Anecdote: I never remember having Sunny D as a kid. I think the only reason anyone remembers the drink at all is because of the excellent Dave Chapelle bit. The Kool-Aid Jammers were purchased because I couldn't find any Capri Sun, and the idea of drinking out of a weird little shiny bag is something I only would have tolerated as a child. Someone on Twitter also pointed out that The Capri Sun commercial utilized the same technology as the T1000 and Jason Waterfalls in the TLC video for "Waterfalls," and I thought that joke was very funny.

Taste: This was sugary orange drink. It was like Gatorade, but worse.

Ranking: I wanted the purple stuff.

Photo via Flickr user Steven Depolo

Snack Pack/Delmonte Fruit Cup

Anecdote: In second grade there was a girl named Courtney who claimed she had Fuzzy Peaches and wanted to trade for my butterscotch Snack Pack. Like a dummy, I did this trade sight unseen. Courtney quickly ate the Snack Pack before handing back a Delmonte fruit cup. She said that's what her family called fuzzy peaches. I'm still mad whenever I think about it.

Taste: As an adult, when was the last time you ate pudding? It's fine, but I think it is reserved for the very young and very old because it is easy to swallow. The fruit cup was a welcome change to the rest of the snacks, insomuch as it tasted borderline natural, though we were not able to differentiate between the four different kinds of fruit that were supposedly in the cup.

Ranking: Zero Fuzzy Peaches out of a terrible trade.

Fun Dip

Anecdote: Fun Dip is dipping sugar into more sugar. It's not even trying to disguise it. By the end of the whole thing your mouth was sore and your taste buds didn't work, but the ride and the subsequent twenty minutes was magical. As a kid it was a rare treat and I thought it was the greatest. I cannot think of anything that might be analogous in adult life.

Taste: Sugar on Sugar. It was great, despite immediately giving me a headache.

Ranking: One sleepless night wondering why I do this to myself out of three.

Conclusion: Most of the snacks were really bad. I'm trying to decide whether the things I loved as a child were never that good in the first place, or that I need to accept that as I grow up my tastes will continue to evolve, and respect that what I loved served its purpose. I am also pitching a book deal called Zen and the Art of Refined Sugar, if you know any publishers.

Follow Graham Isador on Twitter.

How a 13-Year-Old with a BB Gun Was Gunned Down by Police

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs holds up a photo showing the type of BB gun police say 13-year-old Tyre King pulled from his waistband just before he was shot and killed this week in Ohio. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

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On Wednesday night, police in Columbus, Ohio, responded to a call from a man who said he'd been robbed by a group of teenagers. The victim, who was only out a tiny bit of cash, didn't see any point in fighting back. "I'm not going to mess with it over $10," he told the dispatcher.

But police did mess with it––fast. Just minutes later, cops chased a 13-year-old named Tyre King and a friend of his into an alleyway, where police say he pulled a very real-looking BB-gun from his waistband. A witness heard the gunshots start while she still on the line with 9-1-1 and started screaming.

King was pronounced dead at Nationwide Children's Hospital around 8:30 PM.

Demetrius Braxton, who is 19 and was in the alley with King, admitted to police during questioning that the slain teen had wanted to rob someone for money. His account may diverge from that of cops, however, in that he says King was running away when he was gunned down. For his part, Braxton was released without being charged, and Officer Bryan Mason, the nine-year veteran who shot King, is on leave while the shooting is investigated.

This is the second time in as many years Ohio has been rocked by the death of a black child killed by a white officer who mistook a toy for a deadly threat. In November 2014, Cleveland police caused national outrage when they shot and killed 12-year-old named Tamir Rice, who was playing with a pellet gun at a playground.

In that case, the 9-1-1 caller who reported the ostensible threat mentioned thinking the gun might not be real, a detail that was not relayed to the responding officers. Another key difference, of course, is that Rice was not suspected of committing a crime, however trivial.

For those reasons, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs says a comparison between the two deaths is unfair. Still, Mayor Andrew Ginther seemed to suggest a common thread ran through both deaths––that they wouldn't have happened absent a culture that teaches kids weapons are for play.

"There is something wrong in this country, and it is bringing its epidemic to our city streets," he said Thursday. "And a 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns and violence."

Michael Bell, founder of a local football group for area teens, added that eighth-grader's death might have been prevented had there been enough kids in his age group that year to form a team. King, who was reportedly small for his age, was in the young scholars program at his STEM magnet school, and active in several sports.

"He could have been at practice last night," Bell told the Columbus Dispatch. "It's so disturbing that one bad decision ended his life."

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

Donald Trump Is Still Stealing His Campaign Banners From the Internet

Remember when Donald Trump had that week where he went to Kinko’s and just printed off random shit he found on the internet ? Well, today he continued that fabulous tradition at a rally in Miami. He entered to the theme song of Les Misérables and behind him was projected a photoshopped Les Deplorables parody. If you’ve seen the image before, that’s because his campaign took it from the internet.


The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election: What Does Trump Need to Do to Lose This Election?

Donald Trump in January 2015, back when he was just famous for being mean to people on TV. Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

On Thursday, Donald Trump swaggered into the Economic Club of New York and, before going into some of the details in his constantly changing tax plan, couldn't resist some ad-libbed bragging to his audience about how well he was doing.

"We had some really incredible things happen today," he said. "The polls are coming out—we're leading in so many polls, I don't know where to begin. But that's a good feeling."

Trump congratulates himself as instinctively as fish shit in the ocean, but even the most contentious fact-checker would have to concur with the self-proclaimed billionaire's assessment of the polls. In the past week, a smorgasbord of surveys have found Trump leading in swing states from Ohio to Florida to Utah to North Carolina; many national polls gave Trump a slim lead as well. There's a lot of campaigning left to do, the polls as a whole show the race in a dead heat, and Trump needs to carry pretty much every swing state on the board to actually win. Still, he's undeniably surging.

This raises a question: What the fuck?

Trump's incompetence, habitual lying, and willingness to take advantage of the less fortunate are public knowledge to anyone who is paying even a little bit of attention. A Trump-branded real estate seminar is being sued for fraud, and Trump's personal foundation has been accused of using other people's money to bribe politicians and buy a giant painting of the candidate. His international business dealings could create massive conflicts of interest if he ever took office. He has a history of not paying contractors. He has spoken approvingly of torture. If he's not a racist himself, he at least makes appeals to nativism—building a massive wall, keeping Muslims out of the country—that white supremacists love. He engaged in an ugly public feud with the parents of a dead veteran. He's done racist impressions of Asians and condoned violence against protesters. As I was writing this, he lied about the origins of the racist birther conspiracy he advanced for years.

Everyone from his ghostwriter to Mitt Romney has called him completely unfit to be president. The New Hampshire Union Leader, normally a GOP-supporting paper, endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson instead, calling Trump "a liar, a bully, a buffoon." The Richmond Times-Dispatch did likewise. The Dallas Morning News, another Republican stalwart, wrote that "Donald Trump is not qualified to serve as president and does not deserve your vote," then endorsed Clinton, the first Democrat the paper had backed in 75 years.

Despite all that, Trump could be the next president. What polls have recently made clear is that while a majority of Americans think he's unqualified for the job, some of those people will vote for him anyway. But why? How is it possible that Trump has remained so popular?

The easy thing to do would be to say that the people planning to vote for Trump are not paying attention, but that's a dodge, a way to dismiss Trumpites as ignorant. His supporters have heard all the attacks on him made by both the Clinton campaign and the media—back during the primary, a focus group of Trump backers found that many of these attacks made them like him more. Americans don't trust the media, and they don't trust Clinton.

The people who denounce Trump tend to be Establishment figures: big-city newspaper editors, longtime politicians, celebrities—in other words, the same people Trump says have been screwing up the country. Is it any wonder his voters don't give a shit what those people think? When 50 former GOP officials wrote a letter saying Trump is "not qualified to be president," it was simple for him to shrug them off as being irrelevant and incompetent, the people who had turned the Middle East into a mess in the first place.

The other thing Trump has going for him is that Clinton is, as everyone has noted, a weak candidate herself—not as inspiring as Obama, weighted down in voters' minds by her own habits of obfuscation and secrecy, hurt recently by an incident that saw her conceal her pneumonia from the public, then nearly collapsing while attending a 9/11 memorial. A longstanding mainstream theory of this election is that it's about voting against the candidate you hate, not voting for the one you love—hatred of Clinton has brought a lot of Republicans around to Trump.

But antipathy to Clinton just explains why people would vote Republican. It doesn't explain why Trump beat all those more polished politicians in the primary, and it doesn't quite explain the undead quality his campaign has, its ability to stagger on and even surge in the polls—after all, Trump was trending upward even before Clinton's pneumonia resulted in a wave of negative stories about her.

Scattered in with all the big and small lies Trump tells is a big truth: America has been screwed over by the people running the country. The war in Iraq was based on bad intelligence and promoted by the media, then horribly mismanaged; warnings of the financial crisis were ignored, no one responsible for it was punished in any significant way, and the recovery from it has been slow. People feel disenfranchised as a result, they feel angry, they feel that they've been abandoned.

"Imagine you are one of the millions of middle-aged unemployed white Americans with a high school degree," the conservative writer Ben Domenech said recently. "Your tomorrows look dark. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, look like gold. And when a golden-haired man comes on TV, a man who represents a version of what you might hope your life could be like... he tells you it's not your fault your life is the way it is. He tells you it's the fault of immigrants and bad trade deals and wasteful pointless wars based on lies. He tells you the problem with elites is not that they are too conservative or too liberal, but that they are stupid and don't care about you. He tells you, with confidence, that he alone can make everything great again. And you listen."

Campaigns are about telling stories to voters, and that's a powerful one. It's a story that makes a certain kind of person feel good and powerful again, and it doesn't matter too much if a lot of that story is BS, or if that golden-haired man is really a two-bit huckster. Trump gives people something to believe in, and they aren't going to give that belief up for a few inconvenient facts.

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.

One Year Later, Here’s What’s Going On With Volkswagen’s Diesel Cheating Crisis

On September 18, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that using an illegal “defeat device,” Volkswagen’s diesel engines were emitting far more pollution than is legally allowable under federal and state regulations. A year later, few things are resolved. Here’s what owners of these cheating cars need to know.