Food and Drink, Science, Technology

Friday Food and Drink Post: Snacks ‘N ‘At

Actually, I probably should have phrased the title of this post “Weird Snacks ‘N ‘At.”

The “‘N ‘At” part is an homage to my nearest (and dearest) metropolitan area, the place I go on the rare occasions when I put on grown-up clothes and shoes, do something about my face, hands and hair (starting with, most unusually, “wash them”), and assume the role of “culture vulture,” (usually with at least one of my friends, as it generally takes some encouragement to get me to this point). I love the (very) occasional exertion, and the entertainment or meal that awaits me, although I’m sad that, while the clock is still there, Kaufmann’s is gone, and so is the Tic-Toc Restaurant, itself an homage to the timepiece, and a regular and favorite meeting place in bygone days.

When we moved to Pittsburgh in the Summer of 1964, we knew hardly anything about the place. But, thanks to my mother, Guy Mitchell, the miracle of 78 rpm vinyl, and the blue-wind-up gramophone, at least we knew this much:

Little did I know that decades later, I’d find out that a mother’s love, a wedding ring, and a pawnshop (perhaps it was the pawnshop!) would have played such a large role in setting my future husband on his way:

People who got to know [my mother-in-law] found her to be a kind, generous and gentle woman, her son said.

“The steel mill where my dad worked was on strike when I was entering Carnegie Tech in 1955,” he said. “I had received a number of scholarships, but couldn’t come up with the money for the application fees.

“Then all of a sudden, the money showed up, and the application was sent off. I found out years later that she hocked her wedding ring to get the money. I think that says a lot about the kind of woman she was,” he said.

“‘N ‘at,” I have always thought, is the Pittsburghese equivalent of what King Mongkut is talking about, when he repeatedly points and waves his finger at Anna Leonowens, intoning “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” He could have saved a lot of time, and the play, and the movie, would have been much shorter, if he’d just cut straight to “‘n ‘at.”

Wait for it: Sudden change of subject. Fear not. In RWKJ’s capable hands, it’ll all come right. Eventually. Perhaps.

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the United States of America’s manned moon landing, the first one ever. It’s a bittersweet day for us because it would also have been my stepson Sam’s fifty-fourth birthday.

But, this year, I remember where I was fifty years ago. I was in England for the summer, at our house in Droitwich. We’d rented a television for the occasion (most houses in the UK didn’t have one in 1969). It was late at night, as we watched, glued to the set, the lunar module land, and then finally, it seemed like an eternity later, Armstrong’s “one small step.” In between those two events, we munched on very British snacks ‘n ‘at. (Don’t worry; weird as they were, they have nothing to do with this post.)

Almost forty years later, after Dad was gone, my sister took his collection of slides, of which there were thousands, and had them digitized and copied to DVD. What a treasure. Pro tip: If you’re in a similar situation, please don’t wait till your loved one is gone. Get them digitized as soon as you can, and then enjoy them together. It’s so much nicer when they don’t display upside down or backwards, get stuck in the machine, or get overheated and melt into a liquid mess that gums up the works and stinks up the house. (It’s nicer, but perhaps not nearly as much fun. Yet another character-building experience, like walking ten miles each way to school, uphill in both directions, that seems to have perished from the face of the earth. Sad.)

As I flipped through the high-quality scans and images of Dad’s slides, I couldn’t help noticing, in between laughter and tears, several images that looked like mistakes. Black backgrounds. White blobs. Strange gray and white geometric-looking objects. What on earth were they?

And then I remembered. Dad and his camera, a Bell and Howell which I think had been given to him by the Ford Foundation as part of a grant to go wander around Nigeria in the throes of its civil war in 1966. Dancing with excitement, in and out of the house. Looking up at the moon. Taking a photo of it at the moment men were walking on it. Running back into the house. Taking a photo of the TV screen (in the days before LCD panels, when it wasn’t actually so easy to do that), in order to record for family posterity that we were there, when it happened.

Here they are. I was there. On the moon. With Neil and Buzz. And their Space Food SticksI remember:

So. Weird snacks ‘n ‘at.

Who here remembers Space Food Sticks when they were so popular, in the late 1960s? And what about “Tang?” Dreadful products. But a sweet memory of, in many ways, a more innocent time.

What other odd snacks (‘n ‘at) of your childhood would you like to tell us about? Please.

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