Some of our food sensibilities run really deep. Food companies using nostalgia have a much easier time bringing us back. However, the problem lies when we aren't getting what we truly yearn for from way back when.
Little Debbie's is using nostalgia in its latest campaign, with childhood versions reminding adults how they were once children who would enjoy Little Debbie's treats.
In the chocolate cupcakes commercial, the younger version of the woman is there "reminding you how things used to be. How you'd have a Little Debbie whenever you finished cleaning your room or finished a book report."
The woman continues the thought process: "Or finished a garden."
"You've earned it," said the girl.
The tagline is "Your love for Little Debbie is something you never outgrow."
Let's pretend the person in the commercial is your humble narrator. Let's see how the conversation should really go.
Younger Self: "I'm here to remind you how things used to be. How you'd have a Little Debbie whenever you came home from school after the horrible cafeteria lunches or finished piano practice."
Current Self: "Yeah. Back then, I was starving for calories. Eating the treats was just to make up for lost calories at lunchtime. Now, I'm definitely not starving for calories."
Younger Self: Yeah, but food … treats … you know. The connection. Emotions. Eating. You remember.
Current Self: Look where that lifetime emotional eating has me now. Bigger than I want to be. I don't always enjoy the food.
Younger Self: But you would enjoy the Little Debbie treat. Brings back some good childhood memories. If you had my metabolism, you wouldn't even think about it.
Current Self: Okay, you talked me into it. Give me the Little Debbie's from my childhood.
Younger Self: Well, no. You have to buy Little Debbie's in your time. I'm just a visual reminder.
Current Self: Yeah, but the 2015 version has high-fructose corn syrup and doesn't taste nearly as good as what I used to love.
Younger Self: That's way over my head. I'm a kid. I run around and eat whatever I can.
The conversation would revolve around Twinkies and Hostess products since they were relevant in my childhood. Regular readers know of my love for Canadian Twinkies back when they did taste like the snack cakes of my childhood.
If you were into Little Debbie's and you miss them, the 2015 version of Little Debbie's isn't a trip back to your childhood. The girl on the box is the same, but what is inside the box isn't the same.
I've wanted a time machine to go back and have the soft drinks of my youth, the Kentucky Fried Chicken (not KFC) where you had to wait for 5-7 minutes for your food to be freshly cooked and that dark brown color of the chicken skin that you can't get now. My parents wanted to go back to the days before Kentucky Fried Chicken of their college years, the actual restaurant Harlan Sanders had in Corbin, KY. They aren't getting their "Kentucky Fried Chicken" and I'm not getting my Kentucky Fried Chicken version either.
We could easily have a debate over whether adults of a certain age should be eating that much extra dessert, even for nostalgia. I would argue that if you could have the childhood version of Twinkies, Little Debbie's, KFC, 7UP, or your childhood favorite, you should have that if only to remind you of what we have today.
When Michelle Obama wanted to reduce the childhood obesity rate, the mark she set was what the obesity rate was in the 1970s. There are numerous factors involved as to why obesity levels have risen, but the junk food of the 1970s was better for you than a lot of the junk food now.
We now live in a society where people take pictures of what they eat. We use the pictures to remind us of what we ate. I would love to go back and take some pictures with our "futuristic" smartphones of the food from my childhood. I would love to go back and have some of that food again.
But I can't. That food doesn't exist and there is no time machine. I do have great memories of eating junk food from my childhood, and I loved not having to think about calories back then.
In the donuts commercial, the little girl has a line at the end: "You're going to pay for that." She means money, but could be applied to calories and high-fructose corn syrup.
Those days are over. You can't go home. Have nostalgia for what once was, but live in the moment, create new food memories, and don't get bullied by food companies with false nostalgia substitutions. Hold out for the real thing, real memories of better tasting junk food gone by in time.
photo credit: Little Debbie's