Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Handi-Snacks


Some mysteries are better left unsolved. For example, it baffles my mind to ponder exactly what part of the cheese becomes the semi-gelatinous room-temperature no-refrigeration-required goo in the Handi-Snacks conveniently compartmentalized tub. The more I think about it, the more my brain yearns to burst from its enskullment and lay twitching on the floor, exhausted and defeated. Luckily, I've never given it that much thought.

Dunkable snacks were all the rage in the 90s. Dunkaroos cornered the sweet sector of the market, but the savory had yet to be conquered in a snack dunking tour de force. Luckily, Nabisco (later Kraft) was there to step in and show us the way to salty dunkable goodness. With mystery cheese. Really, just incredibly mysterious. I'm starting to get a headache again contemplating its very existence, so I think I'll just go on pretending that's a natural state of cheese. Okay, good, good. I'm back at cheese-pondering baseline again. Whew. Close one there.

Handi-Snacks were a pretty ingenious concept. Parents were increasingly busy and demanding more and more of food manufacturers to produce the type of lunchbox fillers that required little to no preparation. The morning rush and ensuing time crunch forced working parents to reconsider their nutritional standards and opt for easy available prepackaged options.

Things like nutritional content and edibility quickly took a backseat to the incredible ease of taking a few ready-sealed packages, throwing them in a bag, and declaring it a fully assembled lunch made with a parent's loving albeit neglectful touch. When it came to lunch time, instead of finding a sweet note and a well-filled sandwich, we were usually left with a moderately sized pile of plastic packaging that held mysterious and delicious contents within its airtight plastic. We're talking the kind of stuff that could survive some serious nuclear fallout. This food may not have had much to do with anything edible found in nature, but it certainly had the power of perseverance.



Handi-Snacks were streamlined for ease of accessibility. The concept was brilliantly simple. Each individually wrapped packaged housed two compartments: a cracker den and a cheese hangout. Somewhere in the vicinity of our crackers lay the one necessary implement to cheese spreadage: the little red plastic stick. I like to think of the little red plastic stick as a sort of magic soft cheese spreading wand. Or, you know. Just a little red plastic stick. Whatever.

As a child I craved these things with a zealousness that would make proselytizing missionaries pause and say, "Now, really. Don't you think that's a bit much?" These things were like a snack time drug to me. I needed my fix, and I would stop at nothing to get it. Whether it was a frenzied cafeteria trade for some off-flavor Snack Packs or discreetly tossing them into the supermarket cart when my mom's head was turned, one thing was for sure: I was going to get my Handi-Snacks.

The brand later expanded to include other delicious flavors and varieties. We had our breadstick version, though I use the term breadstick lightly. Er, heavily. These things were rock solid. They in no way resembled a breadstick and any insinuation of a relationship between the two would certainly infuriate any legitimate Italian gourmet. Whatever the case, these little breadstick-shaped crackers were nothing short of a dunking revelation. Or at least, that's the way my 7-year old self perceived their greatness.


The brand also came in a pretzel variety, satiating our salt cravings and prematurely clogging our virile young arteries. These too were packaged alongside the mystery cheese that for the above described reasons shall be investigated no further. Let's just say it may not have been cheese cheese, but they were probably related in some way. Somehow, though, I doubt a dairy cow would have recognized it as her byproduct. Just sayin'.


There was also a peanut butter cracker combination, which to its credit was a bit easier to stomach when considering its appropriately tepid temperature. This formulation was fairly short-lived, however, as it was not as well-received. The people had spoken and they wanted their disgusting cheese, dammit. Far be it from Kraft to deny them the spreadable cheese fix they so sorely need.

Handi-Snacks dropped the ball a bit when they attempted to break the Dunkaroo empire and offer sweet dunkable snack products. The cookies and cream variety was less than appetizing, though that of course did little in the way of stopping me from begging my parents to purchase it for me at every supermarket turn. Pretty much anything sweet that showed up on my snack radar was fair game for grocery store begging. I didn't even have to like the product, it just needed to contain a proportion of sugar that far exceeded the recommended daily dosage. It was a simple system, actually, though I can't imagine my teeth have written me any heartfelt thank you notes since.


In a sort of gross turn of events, Kraft morphed the Handi-Snacks brand name into a catchall for all sorts of their newer products: run-of-the-mill pudding cups, gelatin snacks, and even a Baskin-Robbins crossover pudding brand. Perhaps the rebranding was warranted in some way I've failed to comprehend, but let me be the first to say that when I think Baskin Robbins, I tend not to think lumpy, unidentifiable and unsourceable cheese. But then again, maybe that's just me.

35 comments:

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

My mom would never let us buy that crap. On rare occasion I got one at a friends house...it was like my world was complete. Thank goodness as an adult I've come to realize fake cheese is disgusting.

Cee said...

I didn't know there was an oreo version!

outpostroad said...

I LOVE the cheese and cracker ones. I take them to work all the time!

outpostroad said...

I LOVE the cheese and cracker Handi-Snacks! I take them to work all the time!

thegamerswife said...

I admit I actually liked the pretzel and cheese ones as a kid! Oh the memories :)

the pizza said...

"snack time drug" "cracker den and cheese hang out" HOW do you DO this? brilliant.

I think it's telling that no where on the packaging is this stuff actually called "cheese". There's "cheez", and "cheese dip".

Christina Lee said...

a-hahaha my son LOVES these- especially the Oreo ones!!

Jaime said...

How funny! Totally forgot about these ...i looved Dunkaroos- prob ridiculously bad for you.

Shannon said...

Um, I don't know why my earlier comment posted twice or why it's linked to my old url, lol.

Why is it that I can still eat the cheese and cracker snacks as an adult, but just the thought of the Oreo ones makes me want to throw up?

Melissa said...

Haha I forgot about those!!! I used to live for the Ritz cheese and crackers ones. My cousins and I would all watch a movie as we used that little red stick to spread the cheese on our crackers. Too funny!

Melanie's Randomness said...

My mom used to go to Costco and by boxes and boxes of Handi-Snacks. I always tried to leave enough cheese for all the crackers but it was hard!! It was too yummy!! I was more of a Dunkaroos girl tho. =)

Lindsay said...

oh man you are takin' me back! im kinda droolin over here for a handi-snack! i definitely ate the cheese first. scraped it out with my fingers if i had to!

Cafe Fashionista said...

Oh, I so worshipped these as a child. At least, I worshipped the looks of them. I refused to eat cheese while growing up (still do actually), so I never ate them; but I thought they were adorable. Once they released the cookies 'n' Cream version, though, I was hooked. Mainly I ate a lot of Dunkaroos. :)

Scientific Housewife said...

Handi-snacks were so awesome and every kid had them. I also started really liking the Dunk-ems, which were the same concept.

Kris said...

goota love that fake cheese!

Ice Queen said...

Kids still eat these now and from my experience I think they appreciate them just as much. That Oreo one looks delicious!

Emily said...

I always loved that fake cheese...it was my favorite part of the Handi Snack experience. I'd eat the crackers/breadsticks/whatever and then eat the cheese separately. Wait...who am I kidding? I still do that. :)

Carol said...

seriously, what exactly is in that "cheese?!"

Harlem's A Hatin said...

I love your site! I remember all of these things. Brings back great memories. Thank you for this!

http://harlemshaterade.blogspot.com

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I STILL buy handi-snacks!! Love them!

Couture Carrie said...

Yay for Handi-snacks! I loooooved that cheese!

xoxox,
CC

we wear things said...

omg i LOOOOVVVEED handi-snacks.. haha

Sadako said...

Mmm, not quite cheese. I LOVED handisnacks.

Katie said...

Not gonna lie, I had handi snacks last week. I don't care what they are made of.

the NEO-traditionalist said...

Is it gross that we ate these? Probably, but at the time I thought they were sooooo good!
XX Kate

Walking on Sunshine... said...

Okay, I remember the dunkaroos! My daughter really enjoyed them! I thought they were pretty much a waste of money! Great post! Thanks for following!

Jessica said...

Oh my god I used to love that stuff back when I was younger! I think I'd still eat it when I see one. But fake cheese? God, I can't imagine! But I gotta admit, it's not bad for something that's fake.

Kristen said...

I LOVE handisnacks! ahh this brings back so many memories!!

valentine said...

dunkaroos! i forgot about those, ah, good times.

i loved the breadstick ones.

Lil' Woman said...

I only liked the cracker ones...those things were delish! :)

Andhari said...

Those are really good, you know. I loved it so much back in the days. However I'm pretty happy that my parents didn't qualify them as lunch :P

Chelsea said...

man i used to tear the cheese n crackers up.. then eat all the leftover cheese that didnt make it to the crackers.

Shop Girl* said...

I still buy the bread stick ones.

I'm still 5 inside. haha

MsJess said...

I recall my friend would eat handi snacks every day and one time she dropped the fake cheese on the concrete and it bleached the concrete white. That stuff was scary!

Unknown said...

Where do I buy the red sticks at i just want the stick

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