We may settle at home to watch a film with some microwave popcorn now, but in the 80s, it was very different.
Jenny Morrill (@theworldofcrap)
These days, I eat my weight in nachos whenever I go to the cinema to see a banging film like Geostorm. In the 80s, however, we had nothing as exotic as nachos, which were foreign. Instead, we’d sit there happily eating cheese and pineapple on a stick, or ‘tripe ‘n’ onion flavour puffz’, while watching The Rescuers.
Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure the 80s was when they first decided to spell food with a Z all the time. The art of movies was also in its infancy, and Geostorm had not yet been released. And we nearly had a war but then didn’t, I think.
Despite these cultural speedbumps, the 80s managed to give us some brilliant food, especially when it came to snacks. (For the rest of this article, I may or may not spell it ‘snax’, as that seems more fitting and rad. I haven’t decided yet.)
The point of this nonsense is that, in his infinite wisdom, the editor of this site has asked me to write about the best movie snacks of the 1980s. I said yes because I like food, it’s my favourite. I’ve also seen some films.
Here, then, is my collection of ‘things to stuff your face with while watching E.T., or An American Tail, or Crocodile Dundee, or whatever premiere ITV Yorkshire had managed to get for the bank holiday (hint: Every Which Way But Loose)’.
First, let’s turn our attention to what is widely referred to as ‘the popcorn of movie snacks’: popcorn. Since microwave popcorn wasn’t really a thing in 1980s UK, this can be loosely divided into three categories –
– Cinema popcorn
– Stale bags of suspect popcorn from the video shop
There is no objective ‘best’ popcorn in my opinion, but you should maybe stay away from the video shop stuff. If your video shop was anything like ours, they have not restocked since opening, and there is now a curious film of dust over the popcorn, the bags of flumps, and the huge sugar dummies they sold for some unknown reason.
Much more contentious is the correct way to eat popcorn. And when I say ‘contentious’, I mean ‘I am right and if you don’t agree with me on this, you are the kind of person who uses words like “healthful”, and “flavoursome”, and who lives in a stock photo’.
Wrong way to eat popcorn: Take one single piece from the bowl, eat while smiling, then pass the bowl to your friends while you all watch A WEEPY MOVIE am I right girls.
Right way to eat popcorn: Shovel fistfuls of popcorn into your mouth while trying to simultaneously defend your popcorn and keep up with the plot of Mac And Me.
One time I went to The American Adventure theme park (long gone, sadly) and had barbecue flavour popcorn, and back then it was the most exotic thing in the world. This isn’t necessarily relevant to a movie article, but I thought it was interesting. I miss The American Adventure.
Suggested movie accompaniments: Blockbuster movies at the cinema, big bank holiday premieres on TV, couples arguing in the queue in front of you
The word ‘crisps’, as you know, covers a wide selection of savoury snackettes, not all of which are made from potatoes. For example, if someone asks “What’s your favourite crisp?” and you says “Monster Munch”, and the reply with “WeLL AcTuAllY…”, then you know not to talk to that person any more.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s examine the crunchy side of the snack world.
There were a few big players of the crisp world back in the 1980s, but in general there wasn’t one company presiding over a cartel that would break the kneecaps of fellow snack manufacturers. “The Walkers/KP/Golden Wonder massacre of 1987” is not a documentary you’re ever likely to see. The snack philosophy back then seemed to be ‘the more the merrier’, which is why the crisp section is so hard to condense into one delicious piece.
Although I eat nachos in the cinema (indeed, I throw the pointier nachos at people I don’t like the look of), I would argue that eating crisps in the cinema isn’t really the done thing. At best, it’s a skill acquired over years of knowing when to time your bites so the loud bits of the film drown them out. Most people do not have this skill, and should keep their crisps at home.
With that out of the way, let’s imagine you’ve invited a load of your mates round to watch Honey I Shrunk The Kids (because your parents wouldn’t let you rent Hellraiser). In this social setting, the correct thing to do is to empty a dozen bags of assorted crisps into a big bowl, which your friends will then add their germs to.
Can’t decide what to buy from Presto, Safeway or Kwik Save? Here are some suggestions:
For bonus 80s points, buy the knock-off own brand versions of these, because these are almost invariably spelled with a Z, an X, or some other nonsense. Also, you don’t want to waste your genuine Nik Naks, Monster Munch or bacon Frazzles on your friends, do you? You do not.
Suggested movie accompaniment: An inoffensive family movie no one really wants to watch, like Bedknobs & Broomsticks or The Railway Children. Eat the crisps as loudly as you can, just for something to do. Unless of course you’ve managed to wangle your friend’s brother’s bootleg copy of The Fly.
Kind of a double edged sword, this. On one hand, it’s ice cream, which is always brilliant. On the other hand, it can make a mess if not handled properly. On the other hand, it’s quiet to eat. Triple edged sword.
Anyway, ice cream is a pretty good bet for the cinema; most people can eat an ice cream without needing to be hosed down afterwards. If you fancy an ice cream at the cinema these days, you’d better be in the mood for Ben & Jerry’s (which is fine, no one’s ever not in the mood for that), but back in the day you could choose from up to three different ice creams:
- Choc ice
- Mini Milk
- Tub of vanilla Lyons Maid
Here’s a tip for if you ever get a time machine and use that technology to visit a cinema in the 80s, as if you would: don’t bother with the tub of ice cream, because you are expected to eat it with one of these:
By the time you’ve figured out you’re actually supposed to use it as a tiny weapon with which to rob a spoon shop, your ice cream has melted and the film is probably over.
If you’re eating your ice cream at home, your options are more varied. In addition to a choc ice from the 24 pack your dad always has on hand, you could indulge in a slice of Viennetta, a scoop of the chocolate bit from a tub of Neapolitan, or a bowl of vanilla livened up by the addition of Bird’s Ice Magic:
In reality, this was a rubbish invention that was best avoided. If you must eat ice cream with a slab of chocolate, stick with Viennetta.
Suggested movie accompaniment: Santa Claus The Movie. This isn’t a hard and fast rule or anything, but try it for yourself and tell me I’m wrong. (Hint: I’m not.)
In a word – Pick ‘n’ Mix. Which is technically three words, if you count ‘n’ as a word.
Let’s not beat around the bush here – Woolworths did the best Pick ‘n’ Mix. Therefore, Woolies was your main stop after picking up a pile of VHS for the weekend. As you carefully fill your paper bag, you have ample time to wonder if you’ve accidentally rented the one haunted VHS that every video shop has.
Assuming you haven’t accidentally rented a haunted movie, you are free to stuff your face with flying saucers, cola bottles, and those bobbly chocolate ones that no one ever knows what they’re called.
If the movie is a big family occasion (for example, Christmas Day or Auntie Pat just got out on bail or something), then a more upmarket chocolate is required. On these occasions, your family might break out a tin of Quality Street, or a box of Terry’s Neapolitans:
Best practice: Say to your family “Hey look over there!” While they’re distracted, grab the chocolates and retreat to behind the settee. Eat chocolates at your leisure, while occasionally peeking over the top of the settee to catch up with Short Circuit. Hint: This never works; you will be found out within ten seconds.
Alternative best practice: Eat as many chocolates as you can within that ten second window.
Suggested movie accompaniment: Anything with Dick Van Dyke in it. Alternatively, something futuristic, so you can use red and green sweet wrappers to pretend you’re watching the movie in 3D.