The Joy of Six: A Food Memoir

With Christmas on the horizon, I’ve been thinking about what it was like back in 1987. I was 6 and things were just different. Some of the most memorable spots in my local town are replaced with Wawa’s, Lowes and other major corporations. I wonder whether kids still get excited over the little things, especially when it comes to food. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Grocery Store

It was always something I hated to do, but once I got there, my excitement grew from the moment I walked through the door. I would eye the gumball machines on the way in, hoping I would get a quarter to stick in the slot, twist the knob and catch my prize — a perfectly round piece of gum. After marching past the fruits and vegetables, it was on to the deli, the first pay-off of the trip. Here I would get a slice of American cheese, which I consider the equivalent to lobster tail for a more refined pallet.

A few boring aisles later we would come to the candy section — pay-off number two of the grocery store visit. Our store had a fill-your-own bag. My parents would never let us get any, so we had to sneak some; only a few.

The one item my parents did let us pick out was our cookies for the week. I always wanted some type of peanut butter cookie but, of course, my brother wanted chocolate chip. He usually won.

Book It

Anyone who grew up in the ’80s or early ’90s knows the best part about elementary school. I remember it well. If I read a book, I would get a sticker on my hologram pin. But that wasn’t the exciting part. That sticker meant that I could get a FREE personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. So, one Tuesday each month my parents would take me to Pizza Hut for my free personal pan pizza. Just for reading.


Believe it or not, there was a time when Wawa was not on every corner of America. The one I visited was on the way home from the Wissahickon hockey rink. I couldn’t wait to get into Wawa and order my own turkey hoagie. There were no touch screens. I actually got to talk to the man behind the counter and pick what he put on my sandwich. I always grabbed a 25-cent bag of chips and a green Gatorade, my Dad would give me money and I would pay. I felt like an adult.

Ice Cream

At the end of each baseball game the whole team went to the local ice cream shop for a cold snack. We all talked about who did what during the game, and then the guy behind the counter would ask for more play-by-play details. It didn’t matter if we had a hit or struck out—we told him the truth, because he was the ice cream guy.


McDonald’s wasn’t just a place to get a toy with your meal. That place was like Disney World. There were always birthday parties, school functions and sports gatherings under the Golden Arches. There were slides, ball pits and some crazy looking red-headed guy who brought out the food at parties. There were also a big hamburger dressed in prison clothing and a big purple thing that no one knew what it was; but, we loved it all anyway.

Has being a kid lost its innocence in this era of trans fat, childhood obesity, the Internet and corporate America taking over our hometowns? Our parents weren’t rushing through the drive thru, talking on cell phones at the restaurant while asking about our day or sitting us in front of a computer at home. They were right there and focused, experiencing it all with us. The world ran at a much slower pace. As John Mayer sings, “I wish I was 6 again…”

Particularly at this time of year, traditions and memories warm our hearts. So, take a minute, think back and share your favorite childhood food experiences. Or, if you have kids, tell us what you do now to make the little things count.