Tasty “snax” from childhood

 Curio & Co. looks at kids' favorite snacks. Photo of Cheez-it boxes. Curio and Co. www.curioandco.com

Forget the counting, there’s no spelling for taste!

When you’re a kid, you know you’re in for a treat if a product name uses non-standard spelling. Froot instead of fruit, cheez instead of cheese. Are manufacturers legally required to change the spelling because there isn’t any real fruit or cheese in the product? Whatever the case, if it’s misspelled, you know it will be tastier than it is good for you.

And kids get pretty good at deciphering labels and learn, for example, all of the synonyms for sugar. Breakfast cereals that contain honey or corn syrup, or are frosted or iced – any kid knows that means extra sugar and lots of it. (Breakfast cereals don’t just do this to kids, though. Where are the grapes in Grape-Nuts?)

But why are kids drawn to processed and chemical-y food anyway? Perhaps because for kids, the line between reality and make believe is still so fuzzy that they don’t care the same way adults do about whether or not there are “real” ingredients in something. To a child whose world is made up of Once Upon a Time picture books and imaginative playtime, why shouldn’t the colors be artificial?

Furthermore, the lives of children are pretty packaged and processed as well, with extensive rules about what they can and can’t do, and decisions made for them by outside authorities. So a little more processing by snack manufacturers may seem familiar. It might even be that kids relate better to products with froot and not fruit because they are still struggling with spelling themselves.

The downfall, of course, is the disillusionment that comes with growing up to realize that we can’t stay in a world of artificial flavors. Our own Margie remembers with dismay when she discovered that grapes don’t taste anything like grape flavoring. (And “natural flavors” can mean a product is derived from natural ingredients like ground bugs, not necessarily fruit.)

This could be why processed foods can summon such strong memories for adults and serve as comfort food to turn to when we’re down. Through those “crispity, crunchity, frooty bits,” we can revisit our childhood of bright artificial colors – even if only for a few bites.