I’d like to take a minute or 30 to talk about New Zealand snacks.
I caught myself in a rabbit hole last night, getting sucked into the myriad snack foods that defined my childhood. There were so many. NZ snacks are pretty adventurous, especially in comparison to those I find here in Canada. I don’t know, Kiwis really push the boundaries when it comes to flavour and texture. Don’t just take my word for it, read this sublime piece of NZ journalism (please do, it’s a fantastic piece and Madeline Chapman is a talented, hilarious writer) detailing the many many types of chips that line our supermarket shelves.
I feel like it’s important to mention NZ’s corn based snacks. Perhaps not because they’re the most hard baked part of our national moreish consciousness, but because I liked them a lot. Burger Rings. If that name means nothing to you, you’re likely sane. Burger Rings occupied a similar position as Funyuns and/or Bugles. They were tactile, and fancy as shit. As a kid, your fingers could be doused in cheeto-esque dust, as you displayed your abundant wealth for all to see. Looking down on all the playground plebs with their chicken chip bullshit. When they called them “rings”, they did not stutter. They were the perfect size, though presumably as an adult they’d fit as far as my nails. And the taste? Ostensibly “burger”, whatever that means. They had abundant tang with a sumptuous umami flavour. An excellent snack option.
There also were a bunch of corn/cheese options I fucking loved. Biguns. BIGUNS. The same kind of jewellery based shenanigans as Burger Rings, but with added CHONK. Imagine a cheese ball that could envelop your finger. That’s the magnitude of what you were dealing with. Dense but puffy corn resplendent with cheese dust. Packed right through with flavour. I fucking loved Biguns, and Cheezels, their more economical but less outrageous cousins. Oh, not to forget the bacon based Rashuns. Those were some DENSE chips. Goddamn Bluebird monopolised the 90s savoury snack market.
Truthfully, I was never much of a savoury snacker. I’m a sweet boy at heart. When it comes to lollies (the Kiwi word for “candy”), my heart was abundant. I never got much into Snifters, though as an adult I’d probably fall right in love. Snifters. A candy shell, chocolate layer, and chewy mint candy centre. K Bars were hard, chewable candy concoctions. They clung to your teeth, lest you forget that you’d just ingested pure sugar. They’d last for ages, a marvel considering they were dirt cheap. Jafas are the quintessential Kiwi movie candy, as far as I know. Not least because they became slang as nationwide disdain for Aucklanders (Just Another Fucking Aucklander). They had an orange candy shell and dark chocolate centre. Think a bite sized crunchy Terry’s chocolate orange.
I think it’s time we talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the fucking menace in the movie theatre. Stay with me. Tangy Fruits. Tangy Fruits were iconic for several reasons. They came in substantial little pottles, which were practically only available at movie theatres. They were dense but chewable, colourful fruit lollies. They were, much like K Bars, pure sugar. Now. I don’t think you can understand from that picture just how many there were in a pottle. There were too many, not just for a child, but straight up an unfathomable quantity of sweetness. Kids would get them for the movies and inevitably eat too many. Sugar crash, sickness, raging energy. Whatever it was, they made films damn near unwatchable. Not only would kids up the back do Tangy Fruit races down the aisles, but in the last third of the film, things would get batshit.
See, there was some combination of the lolly’s density and the big plastic pottle that gave it a loud and specific resonance when shook. Agitated and energetic kids would shake these containers so fucking hard, that it’d get difficult to follow the movie. Just a bunch of little fucking wildlings shaking these damn things around like the thunder of wardrums. Little shits everywhere disturbing the peace, with no regard for narrative structure. To be fair, if you had that much artificial energy coursing through your young veins in an enclosed space, what would you do? It’s a marvel we didn’t tear up the upholstery. I so dearly want some tangy fruits right now, always and forever, but nothing good lasts that long. Much like most great Kiwi candy, they’ve been discontinued and only live on in my deepest fantasies.
R.I.P. My childhood.