Around the dawn of the 1980s, my mom began to make healthy meals and buy healthy groceries. We no longer saw Frankenberry or Chef Boyardee in our cupboards and dessert became a rare treat.
Snacks suffered the most. Carrot sticks and raisins replaced anything with sugar. I believe Doritos made their neighborhood debut right around this time. They never appeared in my house.
One of the "new snacks" to show up instead was something called "granola bars." Until this time, I had only known granola as that hard stuff you poured out of a cereal box and attempted to eat without ruining the inside of your mouth. The granola bars were just as hard, if not harder, and just as tasteless. The Nature Valley versions featured the most tolerable option, cinnamon, in red packaging; the kind that made you the most thirsty, peanut butter, in orange packaging; and the one that removed any taste or anything of interest whatsoever, oats n' honey, in the green packaging.
If I was starving -- as I often was as a budding teenager -- I would eat one of these dry, crumbly rectangles in an attempt to quiet my hunger.
Then, miraculously, I began to see advertisements for something called "chewy granola bars." They weren't hard and crumbly. They were a little moist and pulled apart almost like a Rice Krispie square treat. Sometimes they featured chocolate chips, which seemed completely contradictory to the granola health code. But suddenly these granola bars were actually tasty.
The man behind this new invention was David Bone, a researcher at Quaker Oats Company for 40 years and his investigation into how water migrated in food helped develop the chewy granola bar.
All of these words on a mere granola bar seem like old news to those who grew up only knowing granola bars as "chewy," but this was not always the case and when chewy granola bars happened, it was one of the greatest food inventions of the '80s for youngsters. Commercials trumpeted their taste on Saturday mornings and Quaker actually trademarked "Quaker Chewy" because it was so proud of its new invention.
This also explains why in 1986, Quaker partnered with Topps to make a 33-card baseball card set with every last card advertising right at the top "Quaker Chewy Granola Bars". To me, this is one of the most 1980s sets of all-time for its devotion to what today is the pedestrian granola-bar-with-chocolate-icing-chocolate-chips-marshmallows-and-25-percent-less-sugar-because-these-actually-aren't-good-for-you-at-all.
Somewhere, a rock-hard Nature Valley oats n' honey bar was rolling over in its wrapper, perfectly preserved.
Because of the story behind the product advertised by each card and the timing of the release of this set, as well as the tight cropping on each card, I view every card as if the player is spotting this new-fangled "chewy" granola bar for the first time. For example, Willie McGee appears to have a host of question marks over his head upon seeing his first chewy granola bar.
Dwight Gooden is admiring that first chewy granola bar and fully intends to partake.
Clark, Murphy, Valenzuela, Raines, Parker, Rice, Boggs, Ripken, Mattingly and Brett can't help but have their heads turned by the new Chewy Granola Bar (did someone say there's a s'mores flavor???). Brett seems like he wants more than one.
Blyleven, Saberhagen, Evans, Sandberg and Strawberry are either quite pleased by the chewy option or downright transfixed by the sight of a chewy granola bar. Someone snap some fingers in front of Saberhagen.
Schmidt, Niekro, Winfield, Carter, Garvey and Guillen are confirming with someone nearby that such a thing as a Chewy Granola Bar exists and if so, why do they have those tasteless Nature Valley things in their locker?
Rose, Quisenberry, Jackson and Murray plain don't trust such a thing as a "chewy" granola bar.
For Henderson, Coleman and Seaver it's the most absurd thing they've ever heard.
Nolan Ryan is quite mad that anyone brought up such a ridiculous thing.
Ozzie Smith's going to bat that fake-ass chewy "granola bar" out of here.
And Tony Gwynn is sad that there's only one Chewy Granola Bar.
Although I will always enjoy the 1970s food-issue card sets more than those from any other decade, the '80s had some great one-off oddballs like this one.
This is another one of the sets that Alan gave me at last week's card show. I appreciate the opportunity to relive the time when the "chewy granola bar" was one the best inventions on store shelves and not just another boxed junk food to avoid.