Wednesday, May 6, 2009
There's something oddly reassuring about a snack that refers to itself in plural as "yummies." Sure, some of our old snack standbys are yummy (singular), but does each individual chip or pretzel convey its own unique yumminess? I think not.
Amongst all of the koala-themed snack foods out there, Koala Yummies managed to distinguish themselves as the premier marsupial-based snack on the market. Dunkaroos were able to secure a precarious second-place position with their kangaroo spokescartoon upon their release four years later, but their mascot could never reach the level of cuddlability of Yummies fame. I mean look at these guys! Could anything cling to a euclaptys tree in a more lovable fashion?
In an age before extensive concerns over high-fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, and preservatives, children were once allowed to consume nutrition-free overprocessed food without the now-requisite wealth of parental concern and intervention. No one seemed particularly concerned over whether these cookies were organically produced or if the company opted to use free-range koalas. 90s parents food fearmongering was fairly tame compared to their 2000s successors, and junk food reigned supreme for parents with even a shred of concern for their children's cafeteria credibility. Parents weren't sending their children off to school with Disney lunchboxes full of tofu nuggets or soy milk juice boxes; they were sending them with carbohydrate-rich festival of tastes that would make today's South Beach, Atkins, and Sugar Busters-dieting parents blush.
Koala Yummies were one of those magical foods that contained absolutely no natural ingredients. There was something particularly satisfying about biting into a cookie with the knowledge that each component of the fantastic taste sensations on your tongue were developed in a lab specifically for your snacking enjoyment. Just imagine, these little guys were created specifically with your unnatural cravings for artificial sweeteners in mind! The packaging heavily featured a rainforest-type theme, which was certainly misleading. Koala Yummies were in no way linked to nature aside from their marsupial likeness and that's the way we wanted it.
For any of you not fortunate enough to remember the fine blend of sweet tastes that made up these confections, allow me to paint a picture for you. Well, perhaps not paint a picture. While we're using metaphors here, I might as well make them related. Allow me to bake a figurative chocolate-filled cookie for you:
Outside: Pure crispy hollow cookie deliciousness all dolled up in the best koala finery a cheap Asian food production company can buy. These yummies had personality: some of them played some sort of ukelele, some ate plates of cookies, and others yet indulged in deep fits of hysterical emotion (pictured below, bottom left)
Inside: We didn't want to let our parents in on this little secret, but the inside was a Halloween-rivaling level of sweet candy ecstasy. While technically these goodies could contain chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry centers, but everyone knew the chocolate ones were truly the epitome of Koala Yumminess.
The packaging was somewhat odd and clearly reflected its Japanese origins through its complicated shape and construction. Rather than coming in an ordinary household-size box or bag, Koala Yummies lived in little cardboard octagonal prisms. There was no explanation offered for this idiosyncratic packaging, but it certainly made it more fun and plausible to play with the Yummies in the context of their three-dimensional stop sign-shaped house. This awkward shape and size meant that while consuming a full package of Koala Yummies was likely not recommended or healthy, it was certainly an easily attainable goal met by countless 90s youngsters.
As with the now-discontinued Dunakroos, 90s children have been experiencing extreme symptoms of Koala Yummy withdrawal since they were pulled from mainstream American markets. There are full sites, blogs, and lengthy forums devoted to the persistent and persevering quest for these tasty little Koala treats. Unfortunately, the public health community has yet to recognize this as a valid addiction worthy of treatment programs and/or methadone supplementation, but it certainly seems to have reach this level of cookie-crazed concern. Strung-out sugar-deficient 20-somethings beg and plead for a black-market source for their favorite discontinued snacks. A cursory Google search for Koala Yummies shows hundreds of requests, petitions, underground tips, and supposed store sightings. These are clearly more than cookies we're dealing with here, they're the snack of a generation.
There have, however, been some major breaks in this former cold case.
Your eyes do not deceive you. The once-beloved snacks of your childhood are still enjoying relative fame, and not just from doing the occasional Japanese commercial for extra income. Though now known as "Koala's March", these guys do appear suspiciously similar to our coveted Yummies of snack times past. Of course, that disgusting image of gooey, melty centers is a little off, but we can only imagine (read: pray) that this depiction is for illustrative purposes only. If you live near an Asian grocery or market that stocks ethnic specialty fare, you may be in luck.
Beware of imitations, though. The Meiji Seika corporation has been producing notorious knockoffs known in some Yummies-seeking circles as "Hello Panda". Do not be fooled by the octagonal packaging or similarly emoting cartoon animal images. Online Asian Food Grocer describes Hello Pandas as "Chocolate cream filled biscuits that are surprisingly tasty with no oily after taste. Go ahead, try these finger sized biscuits. You wont be disappointed. Excellent for kids school time snack pack." Surprisingly tasty? Finger-sized? No thank you.
Our new Koala Yummies incarnate, however, on the other hand are described by the same vendor as "Chocolate cream filled biscuits that are surprisingly tasty with no oily after taste. Go ahead, try these finger sized biscuits. You wont be disappointed. Excellent for kids school time snack pack." Wait a second. That sounds suspiciously familiar.
So whether you choose to sell out to Hello Panda or continue to support your old standards with Koala's March, you can still purchase these once-forgotten goodies online.
Just remember not to follow it up with anything vaguely nutritional for a truly authentic 90s snacking experience.