As my regular readers will know, I’m an old-fashioned gal who loves nostalgia. Apparently nostalgia is a popular thing in a pandemic world. It might be one reason why camping has been a top activity for families this summer.
People are creating new memories, about which they can be nostalgic years from now. There are also us older folks, shaking our heads as we compare our nostalgia with the newer version.
I remember camping as being a time when most of the everyday rules were suspended. Bedtime was when we were done having fun for the day; parents didn’t mind because that meant we were out of their hair.
As far as I can tell, this part hasn’t changed in principle. The difference is that often the activities and entertainment are provided by the parents, not thought up by the kids.
If we ever said we were bored while camping, we were given a task like picking up any garbage on the ground in the campsite or chopping wood. It taught us to come up with our own more attractive alternative. Today’s version is often supplied: I saw more than a few parents setting up videos for viewing in camper trailers.
I’m not sure what is new and exciting for kids today; for me it was simple things that changed when we went camping. Perhaps that was because we didn’t have portable screens? I bet some other old folks out there share my memories.
Are you ready? Here we go…
🥣 Those nifty miniature cereal boxes you could cut open and eat from. We only had Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops out of those boxes, never at home. Thankfully my dad ate the Rice Krispies.
🍪 Camp cooking was home-grown ingenuity – wonders that could all be cooked in a fry pan. Store-bought cookies were a camping delicacy – Oreos and Dad’s Chocolate Oatmeal were our favourites. Mom’s cookies at home were good, but you couldn’t pull them apart or lick off the coating.
🚘 Time in the car was even entertaining. (Okay, it was, except for when my little brother took up more than his share of the back seat, or when the dog drooled on my shoulder. ) We sang songs and played “I Spy” and license plate bingo.
It’s true that there were times I didn’t enjoy in the moment. Cold and wet and tired, dragging myself back to the campsite after hiking Illecillewaet glacier, I felt even worse when my vinyl runners melted by the fire as they were set out to dry. And when my cousin got his roasted marshmallow stuck in my pigtail, that was no fun either. But those times are the threads that make the fabric of my life unique.
I don’t mean to say one has to suffer to have a good story, but experiences offer us a chance to learn and grow, and share the excitement that can entail.
When I was a kid, the ultimate camping treat was Jiffy Pop popcorn. It was a compact tinfoil pan when Mom packed it, but once we shook it over the fire or Coleman stove, it unfurled into a magnificent silver ball full of steaming hot popcorn.
On our recent trip to the Kootenays, I discovered the current version of Jiffy Pop does not have the “pop pop” I remember. Rather, it was the “beep beep” of the microwave. I winced, mourning the loss of a great tradition.
“When I was a kid” was the preamble for my Dad’s tales of how his childhood was more interesting than mine. Dare I say “challenging”? He might have even said “better”.
Now that I’m about to become a grandmother I look forward to being able to pass along the wisdom of my days to a brand new generation.
Most of all, I hope camping will be an occasion to remind my grandkids about having time when there is no need to rush, just a desire to share. We will sing songs in the car and stop for ice cream and collect treasures and roast marshmallows. Then they can tell their kids about the days of old…
I love going to the movies. There is something about sitting in the dark with strangers all being immersed in the same experience. The big screen and surround sound are fun, but they are just part of the ambience. The last part is crucial – movie snacks.
For me, popcorn at a movie is a required component. My hubbie is more of a chocolate and licorice kind of guy, munching only the occasional handful of popcorn. Despite our disparity on choice of snack, we have managed to attend movies happily together on enough Tuesdays to fill a large bucket.
Regardless of the snack you choose, its enjoyment can provide the final step in immersing oneself in the movie. Munching M & M’s or gnawing on a bite of licorice can help manage the stress of a horror movie monster’s massacre; nibbling popcorn can aid in maintaining one’s heartbeat at a reasonable level during fast-paced action scenes. The smell of the treats, the movie soundtrack music that leads us in, the darkness that envelops us and the smoke and mirrors of a story on the screen all blend together to take you away from the regular world.
There are consequences to every action. Just like a good movie will also make you think, the snacks leave a lasting impression as well. Tonight on the way home from the theatre it occurred to me – I was busy fussing with popcorn kernels in my teeth and my hubbie was sucking on bits of licorice stuck in his teeth. (He had already licked his fingers of the melting chocolate as we walked to the car.) Was this a marketing ploy, I wondered? Perhaps the movie production companies are in cahoots with Nestlé or Cadbury’s to ensure we are sucked into a lasting experience. Does the popcorn machine company Cretors & Co. put something in with the kernels? After all they have had five generations of their family sustaining movie goers all over North America. (You can read my article on the history of popcorn if you’re keen to know more on this story.)
I suppose I’m just getting sentimental as I age. Much about movies and the movie-going experience has changed in my lifetime. “Extreme” theatres and reclining seats, movies about video game characters – all things that didn’t exist twenty years ago when hubbie and I started our movie date night.
Part of me likes that the popcorn kernels still stick in my teeth the same way they always have. I smile when I hear the outrageously loud sound of my hubbie opening his bag of licorice. Some things don’t need to change.
I had just finished my weekly column for the local news website, writing about popcorn. (It’s Popcorn Day next week, and I was munching on some as I wrote, so it seemed like easy inspiration.) As my mind wandered to think of what to write here today, I remembered my first taste of movie popcorn the year I lived in France… it was confusing. I had the taste expectation of buttery fluffy kernels half melting in my mouth. Instead I got cauliflower-shaped kernels that were coated in a sugary crunch. It wasn’t bad, but my memories collided with my tastebuds and I was distracted. The association didn’t make sense in my brain.
Taste is mostly about smell, and that is hard-wired into our memory in our brains, so remembering a food experience as a whole has a lot of baggage attached to it. Once I got my head wrapped around a new experience, I was fine to have French popcorn at a French movie. (I just needed to switch it up – I couldn’t enjoy someone else dubbing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice either – I had to see francophone films to keep things on an even keel.)
With all the experiences we log in our brain and our taste buds, we do seem to come out on either side of a preference that divides the world – whether we like sweet or salty. Would you choose chips or cookies? It’s not a random choice – did you know we are genetically predisposed to one or the other? Some people really are born with a sweet tooth.
There are factors that influence us – what our mothers eat during pregnancy, then what we associate as comfort food. Some people actually need more sugar in food to perceive sweetness; they often have as many as one third fewer tastebuds than the average person, and so are referred to as non-tasters. By contrast, people with more tastebuds generally are more sensitive, and they often prefer salty tastes. (Think of cooking – salt improves many flavours, and helps hide bitterness.)
In case you’re wondering, I prefer salt to sweet. My “sweet tooth” is more for fat – I love dark chocolate, whipped cream, custard, pastry… and I’ve grown to like kettle corn, which is a lot like the stuff they serve in French movie theatres – salty and sweet.
Whichever way you lean, I hope you get to snuggle up and enjoy your favourite treat this weekend. Happy snacking!