The Frozen Foods From The ’90s That Had Us In a Chokehold

Food Lists 1990s
The Frozen Foods From The ’90s That Had Us In a Chokehold

I was born in 1994, so I had only six years to experience the fever dream that was the ‘90s. While the internet was quickly gaining relevance, while sheep were being cloned, while the world hurtled toward a new millennium, blissfully aware of the dramatic shifts that were about to occur, I was there, eating blue artificially dyed ice out of a clear plastic tube. Like many ‘90s kids, I enjoyed a diet punctuated by the greatest frozen foods of our time, chemically altered to elicit the most intense dopamine rush my young brain could bear.

These days, I mostly buy my frozen food from Trader Joe’s, but every once in a while, I have to revisit some of my childhood favorites. Despite the fact that I can actually feel my telomeres shorten with every bite, there’s something about these frozen foods that I still can’t get enough of.

1. Kid Cuisine

Kid Cuisine came out in 1990, but it wasn’t until the late ‘90s that my mom finally agreed to let me give it a try. I think I was probably more impressed by the signature blue plastic tray than I was by the food itself, but I do remember that the chicken nugget/corn/mac and cheese/brownie combo was my favorite. Sure, my blood may be coursing with chemicals after eating so much cheese sauce cooked in cheap plastic, but the satisfaction my four-year-old self got from that meal makes it all worth it in the end.

2. Aunt Jemima Breakfast Trays

I’m not even joking when I say that the Aunt Jemima breakfast trays are still one of my all-time favorite breakfasts. Before school, I would microwave the flimsy paper tray, peel back the thin layer of plastic and dig into a feast of juicy sausages, soggy hash browns and some sort of tasteless, egg-like substance. The hash brown was the best part (I still like them soggy to this day), but the sausage added a much-needed touch of flavor to the otherwise bland breakfast. I could probably survive off of these even now.

3. Bagel Bites

Putting pizza ingredients on a bagel is an undeniably good idea, which is why there was a time that Bagel Bites were a huge snack hit. Unfortunately, they would sometimes get too hard in the oven, forcing you to crunch your way through a cheese-covered chunk of almost-burnt bread. They’re at their best when paired with cheap beer.

4. Fla-Vor-Ice

Fla-Vor-Ice, the brightly colored popsicles enrobed in plastic sheaths, defined my summers. They were stored in the “outside freezer,” and after hours of running through the sprinkler, I would sneak into the garage, lean over the side of the freezer and snatch a popsicle from the red netting bag they came in. They never even tasted good, but I loved how my lips would turn purplish-blue from the dye despite the sweltering heat.

5. Fish Sticks

Why did it seem like fish sticks were everywhere when I was a kid? Where did they go? Did we all just collectively decide to stop eating them? For a few years of my early life, I’m pretty sure I asked for fish sticks at every single meal.

6. Hot Pockets

Technically, Hot Pockets were introduced in 1983, but they played an important role in shaping the frozen food landscape in the ‘90s. It was part of an obsession with portability: Why sit down at a table and enjoy a meal with the people you love when you could just rush from meeting to meeting with a self-enclosed, highly processed sandwich?

7. Eggo Waffles

I got so used to eating Eggo Waffles as a kid that I can barely stomach an actual, well-made waffle. I want it to be thin, soggy and bright yellow. Sometimes, I’d put chocolate chips in the crevices so they would melt, yielding what has to be the best middle-of-the-night snack of all time. Butter is a must; syrup is not.

8. Totino’s Frozen Pizza Rolls

Totino’s Frozen Pizza Rolls are, unfortunately, not that uncommon in my freezer even today. The carby pockets of pizza ingredients aren’t as good as an actual pizza, but when you’re desperate for a savory snack, they’ll get the job done. In fact, they’re borderline addictive after you burn off the first level of epithelial cells from the surface of your mouth.

9. Uncrustables

I’ve never really been anti-crust, even when I was a kid, so my parents would usually just make me a standard PBJ. The first time I had an Uncrustable, though, my mind was blown. More than the lack of crust, what makes these treats special is the density of the peanut butter and jelly within the pouch of bread. It’s even better if you eat it when it’s still slightly frozen.

10. Toaster Strudels

Toaster Strudels were actually born in the ‘80s, but they rose to prominence as millennials were preparing breakfast before school. I have no clue how Toaster Strudel’s marketing team presented these sugar-packed frozen treats as breakfast instead of dessert, but it worked: The frosting-topped pie pockets were a staple in our household many mornings out of the week.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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