Sometimes you just have to write…
The biggest supermarket around here, appropriately called Jumbo, has an extensive foreign foods section, which is a big part of why I like to shop there. I can find aloe vera or green tea drink from China, naan bread from India, Japanese spices, and even Polish pickles. Most important for me, though, is the American section, where I can find the cake mixes and canned frosting I use for birthday cakes and the macaroni and cheese mix my son likes for snacks. And both the boys like the occasional can of root beer, which I’ve only ever found at the Jumbo.
Imagine my excitement a couple of days ago when I went there to do my weekly shopping and saw that the American section had suddenly doubled in size and selection. Instead of one section of shelving, there were two!
I spent some time just rooted to the spot, carefully inspecting each item on offer. It was clear at a glance where the emphasis lies: sweets. Where before they just had perhaps five kinds of candy bars, now there were at least a dozen. Some I’d seen before: 3Musketeers bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, for example. But some were completely unfamiliar to me, so they must have been invented within the last 15 years while I’ve lived here. There were also more varieties of cake mixes and more popcorn flavors than I’d seen before.
The killer, though, was Pop-Tarts. They’re one of those memory foods: foods that give me a warm, childish, comforted feeling. Kraft macaroni and cheese (the kind with the cheese packet, not the powder) is one of those memory foods as well; my mother used to prepare it for my sisters and me when she couldn’t be bothered to cook, adding bits of bologna to it for protein. So is Skippy peanut butter, spread thickly on white bread with loads of jam – only the smooth kind of jam, called “jelly” in the US, because I hated jam with bits.
For those of you reading this who are not from the US, Pop-Tarts are a sort of pre-packaged pastry. They’re flat, with a cream or jam filling, and often have a glazed topping. They’ve been around since my childhood in the 60’s, though not in so many flavors. They’re called Pop-Tarts because they’re meant to be toasted; hence, they’re ready when they pop up. (Which reminds me of Jiffy Pop popcorn, another memory food.)
I’m not sure they’re actually particularly good, but I love them. Unlike most memory foods, I didn’t get to eat Pop-Tarts very often as a kid. They were far too unhealthy, so my mother never bought them for us. I only occasionally got to eat one when I slept over a friend’s house. I felt deprived because other kids got Pop-Tarts or sweet cereals (like Froot Loops, which I hated even then, or Sugar Frosted Flakes, which I still love) for breakfast, while we only got boring old unsweetened cereals that tasted like cardboard.
So Pop-Tarts are the forbidden fruit. So, of course, I grabbed a box the other day as soon as I saw them: “cookies & creme” flavour, and they’re gone already. I ate the whole box in three days – eight servings – and while I regret the fat, carbs and calories I took in, I loved eating them.
The labeling on the box is misleading. As required by law, it states the fat, carbohydrate and calorie content per serving, and it wouldn’t be that terrible of a diet sin to eat one of these, if you only did it occasionally.
But the serving the label talks about is just one Pop-Tart. The problem is that the Pop-Tarts are packaged by twos – there are eight Pop-Tarts in four little foil-wrapped packages. In order to sustain a reasonable diet, I could perhaps eat one Pop-Tart a week, at most. Could anyone actually just eat one of these when they’re packaged by twos? And if you said “yes,” please tell me how!
This is why I’m convinced that whoever invented Pop-Tarts, and especially whoever thought of packaging them by twos, was sent by the devil to tempt us mere mortals who have no willpower. And whoever decided to stock them at the local Jumbo is his servant.