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Try This: Ode to Childhood Junk Food

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

In the last six-week session of Writing from the Heart, one of our favorite prompts was this: Write about your favorite childhood junk food, perhaps in the form of an ode. An ode is a lyric poem that praises its subject, one of the classics being Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." However, there are also odes on more prosaic topics, such as socks (Pablo Neruda), chocolate (Barbara Crooker), and okra (Kevin Young).

As you know if you’ve taken a workshop with me or another Amherst Writers & Artists facilitator, when a prompt is given in a workshop the participants are invited to write whatever they wish in the time allotted, in this case 15 minutes. In response to this prompt participants could have invented a fictional character with a favorite junk food, written a poem or a bit of memoir—or written something else entirely!

We had such a good time with this prompt that I asked the workshop participants if they would like to share their writing on my blog, and three of them took me up on it. These pieces are first-draft writing (or maybe 1.5, as they had to be typed). Without further ado, I present Barbara Farmer, Barb Galvin, and Holly Peterson, who appear to have a bit of a sweet tooth—or used to. Enjoy!

Memory of Childhood Junk Food

Barbara Farmer

Fire red stockings stuffed by Daddy

Snickers, Milky Way and Hershey Milk Chocolate

Oranges’ decoratedskin with cloves

Await Christmas morning

Bulging at the heels

Chocolate aroma emanates

Salivating “smacks” of chew

Various shapes of wrappers on the floor

Easter baskets filled with Brach’s jellybeans

Colored, hardboiled eggs with wax penciled names

Chocolate bunnies with bright eyes, eager to be bitten

Pastel yellow, pink and green marshmallow eggs

Smothered sugar peeps, still soft and ready to be eaten

Carvel sundaes and daily custard flavors

Smothered with warm, drizzly syrup, sprinkled with peanuts

Banana splits, covered with whipped cream and maraschino cherries

Looking regal in their plastic containers, ready to melt in your mouth

Tudor Bakery’s chocolate layer cake, filled with vanilla cream

Dusted with ground pistachios, waiting to be sliced

To be handed to the first chosen

Egg creams at Levy’s

After a hard day at high school

Perched on the stool

Watching the pale green mixer blend the concoction

No eggs, just seltzer and chocolate syrup

Woolworth’s soft ice cream with syrup

Served in tall glasses

Long spoons to scoop and taste

Surrounded by people around the counter, waiting to be served

Eyeing the lucky ones who were before them, licking

Nathan’s hot dogs at Coney Island

Steamed buns, nestling a beef frankfurter

Smothered in yellow mustard and relish

You couldn’t eat just one!

Daddy knew that. Sometimes one or two!

Cotton Candy at the circus

Swirling confection around a white, tapered, paper tube

Pale colors of pink, aqua, green and yellow

A rainbow treat, watching the clowns

Not many cavities, in spite of all these

Smiles galore from all the treats that

Filled our childhood lives with gusto!

Ode to a Childhood Favorite

Barb Galvin

What a strange combination

of tastes you are,

Noodle soup with peanut butter

and jelly sandwiches.

Hot and cold you graced my lunch table,

Lipton’s out of a box,

Creamy Jif and Welsh’s grape

on Wonder bread white.

Images of the flannel-backed oil cloth

on which you sat

While I meticulously colored in the flowers

on my napkin

With my 64-count sharp pointed Crayolas.

Jo and I played all summer morn,

until we had a spat.

Then it was home to soup,

tiny noodles – no chicken,

floating in a yellow and white bowl,

compliments of green stamps.

Oh, the joy of a sticky tongue

scraping brown ooze off the roof of my mouth,

Jelly slithering down my throat.

How you bring back simple times,

times of love, times of innocence.

Mom in the kitchen over the hot gas burner,

making sure I never left hungry.

I still see you now,

on the grocery shelves,

warning labels on the peanut butter,

multiple flavors of jelly.

But nothing can replace

the memories you conjure,

the comfort you provided,

the childhood long past.

I think I will make you again,

and go back to my happy time,

once more to the yellow kitchen with the oil cloth,

and be a little girl again.

To Good and Plenty—

Holly Peterson

Does anyone remember you, dear G and P? You would need some rebranding today! Pink, white and gray coated bits of licorice. Surprisingly your color scheme exhibits a mid-century modern vibe that millennials would adore and describe as cute. A bowl of G and P on the supersized white granite kitchen island would be tough stuff. Sprinkle a few on the white placemats from Chip and Joanna’s house goods emporium. Even Drew and Scott could make use of your design potential.

But your name—did it work in 1950? Now, what would we call you—Nasty Nibs, Little Delights, Superhero Crunch? And licorice—how much of the market share is hot because of that flavor? Perhaps a fruit flavored G and P is the fashion forward statement. We remember the black stained tongues. No hiding secret snacking. Licorice breath and bits of candy stuck to teeth. Permanent spots on white shirts and ruffled blouses. Oh, G and P, you remind us of simpler times and gentler places.

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