10 of the best: Retro Food

I read a theory once that everyone believes the music they listen to between the ages of about 6 and 16 is the ‘golden age’ of music because it’s when you’re growing into your personality and discovering what you like and what you don’t. For me those years are between 1988 and 1996 which, for anyone interested actually was the best time for music. Nirvana, early Metallica and Guns n Roses, New Kids on the Block, the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys? I rest my case. Anyway, this post isn’t actually about music, I just like that analogy and thought it would lead me seamlessly into talking about retro food as well.

Because who doesn’t look back on their childhood and remember all the amazing e-number filled, nutritionless crap you used to gorge on with the fondness that you remember your golden era of music? This is the type of retro food stuff that was kicking around for me in the 80s and 90s, some of which I miss more than the smooth wrinkle free forehead of my 20’s. Some not so much:

Arctic Roll

Meant to be a cold dessert version of a swiss roll, in reality the vanilla ice cream was bland, there wasn’t enough jam and the cake round the outside had the consistency of the bottom of a slipper.  It was popular in the 70s and 80s but discontinued by its original maker Birds Eye, in the 90s. When the recession hit in 2008 the country was crying out for some nostalgic comfort food. For some reason. And it was brought back but sales have never been the same since its heyday.

Instant whip

There’s little to be found of the fate of Instant Whip on the internet, other than you can’t get it anymore. I always assumed that Instant Whip and Angel Delight were rivals but both were made by Bird’s, the only difference being that Angel Delight was thicker and sweeter. Butterscotch Instant Whip was always in our house though, with a boatload of hundreds and thousands stirred in for good measure.

Panda Shandy

Retro food also extends to retro drink, FYI. Panda ruled the market when it came to knock off bottles and cans of pop – the bright red cherryade was a constant in our treat cupboard (we got two litres of pop a week and once it’s gone it’s gone – Siobhan ruled with an iron fist).  Panda Shandy was never a favourite of mine, mainly because it tasted disgusting but it did always amuse me that despite only having 0.1% abv, lads at middle school would drink 2 cans and think they were pissed.

Micro chips

What started as Monday night, ‘quick tea after trampolining (me) or football (my brother)’ food later grew into ‘drunk at midnight after too many Bacardi and cokes at the Travs in Cramlington Village’ food.  The concept was ideal however execution was poor. Despite following the instructions to the letter, they were always either still raw or so overcooked they went soggy. And don’t get me started on the McCain microwavable Pizza Rolls that would be raw on the outside and hotter than molten lava on the inside. Fail.

Salt n shake crisps

As if ready salted crisps aren’t inoffensive enough the brainboxes at Smith’s decided what we all really wanted was to salt our own crisps. I get that the saltiness of ones crisp is very much down to individual choice, and that the vigorous shaking of ones crisp packet provides seconds worth of entertainment. The fact, however that the salt never actually stuck to any of the crisps and made the last crisp you ate saltier than the dead sea was a major design flaw.

Soda stream

For me Soda Stream is up there with Mr Frosty and Screwball Scramble in that it was something only the cool kids had. Me and my brother must have begged and pleaded with our parents to buy us one but they (quite rightly) stood their ground. I got hyperactive off normal pop as it was, lord knows what would have happened had I been in control over my own syrup to carbonated water ratio. Actually, I do know what would happen. I would have died. They went away for a while but seem to be the new hipster thing to have in your vegan apartment. Which doesn’t make me feel old at all.

Vice versas

These only seem to have been around for a brief time in the 90s and were made by the good people at Galaxy. The best way to describe them is this; take a galaxy minstrel, but inside the dark chocolate shell is white chocolate. Then take a white chocolate shell and put dark chocolate in the middle. Mix together and make an overweight 13-year-old very happy. Genius. I miss them.


There was always a big debate in our house. Tizer or Irn Bru. Problem was, every time I had either I would be convinced that that one was my favourite. Until I tried the other again. For me it would be almost literally like Sophie’s choice. I think if I were forced I would choose Tizer over Irn Bru. Mostly because you don’t see it around so much anymore. I maintain it would go just as well with vodka as Irn Bru does, but the Geordies (where Tizer was originally made – fact fans) weren’t as forward thinking as the scots. My lasting memory of Tizer? Drinking a whole glass of it quickly when I had tonsillitis when I was about 6 and promptly spewing it all up again on my parent’s duvet. What an image.

Garbage Pail Kids

My mum absolutely hated these. With a passion. Which of course made my brother and I love them even more. Technically not a retro food although they did come with some extremely dubious chewing gum so they make the cut. The idea was to create trading cards based on gross versions of the Cabbage Patch Kids. With names like Greasy Greg, Valerie Vomit and Foul Phil, you get why my mum hated them. They were pretty horrid in hindsight but you know me, if there’s a bandwagon to jump on or something to make me feel included then I’m all about it. The cards developed into a cartoon series and then a movie but it was all a bit flashy and over produced for me.

Tab Clear

Perhaps the reason Tab Clear got discontinued was that I was the only person in the whole world who bought it (or at least, got my Gran to buy it when we were visiting from abroad). But I loved it! It didn’t have the sugar or the caffeine in of regular coke (which I would have drank by the gallon if i were allowed) so didn’t send me loopy – sugary drinks still to this day have an alcoholic type effect on me so I steer well clear of them, as discussed with the soda stream above. And it was nice clear and pretty just like 7up. What’s not to love?

What retro food do you miss?


  1. Nuala
    December 16, 2020 / 7:17 am

    Oooh I loved a vice verse! Sofa stream was fun but caused fights in my house over flavours 🤣🤣

    • honestlyhelen
      December 16, 2020 / 8:35 am

      I was so jealous of anyone who had a soda stream, or a Mr Frosty 🤣

  2. Lexi
    July 28, 2023 / 7:30 pm

    Twist n squeeze drinks!
    Neopolitan chocs at Christmas!

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