Whether you lived through the 1980s or not, there’s no denying it was a pretty special decade, thanks to its distinctive pop culture: the hair, the toys, music, TV and movies.
If nothing says “totally tubular” to you like the food you remember (or wish you could try) from the decade, however, the History Channel is launching a new show that’s sure to kick the ’80s nostalgia into high gear.
The 10-episode series “Adam Eats the 80s” follows food author and culinary entrepreneur Adam Richman as he travels the country reliving his childhood and tasting some of the most iconic and forgotten foods of the 1980s.
Richman, whom you may know from the shows “Man v. Food” and “The Food That Built America,” will journey back to where the brands began, learn some never-revealed secrets and answer questions like, “Did French fries really taste better in the ’80s?” You’ll get a look at everything from Bagel Bites, which launched in 1981, to rarities now worth a fortune — like 1983’s Pepperidge Farm “Star Wars” cookies. The show also looks at the origins of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, Cool Ranch Doritos, Capri Sun and Burger King’s French toast sticks, which hit the menu in 1986.
If you didn’t grow up in the ’80s, however, don’t worry. Simplemost spoke with Richman, who was born in 1974, about what we can expect from the show. He says even those who weren’t fortunate enough to try the foods that are no longer being made will find interest in the ones they chose to feature.
“The producers and I wanted to find foods that were authentic to the 1980s: that had their origins during the decade, or solely existed during that time,” Richman said. “We wanted to make sure that people who lived through the ’80s would remember these items, hopefully with great fondness, and that those who were not born or raised in the decade would still find these foods and flavors engaging, interesting and delicious.”
While the show features foods you can still get today (including mall favorites like Auntie Anne’s pretzels and Cinnabon cinnamon rolls) and some you can only reminisce about (like Domino’s long-lost breakfast pizza and Magic Middles Cookies), you won’t find Richman’s childhood favorites. His are quite special.
“Undoubtedly anything made by my grandma, my great Aunt Anne, and my mom — with honorable mention to Dad’s phenomenal barbecue skills. Grandma’s hit was Swedish meatballs, Aunt Anne could make any breakfast item melt in your mouth, and my mom can cook anything on Earth better than anyone on Earth. Don’t @ me,” he joked.
Richman has even made versions of his childhood favorites himself, though he says nothing compares to the original.
“I’ve made versions of both grandma’s Swedish meatballs and my mom’s spinach pie (not spanikopita, it’s her own thing) that are pretty damn good — but obviously pale when compared to the original,” he said. “I still make a mighty fine PB&J — though it seems my jam choice has changed from raspberry to strawberry. Go figure.”
Richman says his family — both immediate and extended — is filled with great cooks. As a result, many of his best memories as a child are tied to cooking and eating with his family.
“But it was also the glee of getting together and sharing them on special occasions or just when the weather was nice. I have fond memories of dad grilling cherrystone and littleneck clams, as well as Italian sausage from our local salumeria on our Weber grill in the backyard, mom making choucroute or steak au poivre for special occasions, or making her legendary incredible soups on cold days,” he said. “My Dad used to say: ‘I fell in love with your mother for her beauty, charm and wit — I married her for her steak au poivre and split pea soup’,”
You can watch half-hour episodes of “Adam Eats the ’80s” Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET beginning Feb. 27. Do you have a favorite food from the decade you grew up in?