I was a pretty lucky kid.
There are many reasons for that, but two of the greatest were my grandmothers: my Nana, Stella, and my Grandma, Gloria. For most of my life they lived in the same town, just across the ballfield from one another, meaning that to visit one meant that it was a small matter to visit the other. Both were amazing ladies, for very different reasons, but today I’d like to focus on Grandma, because she was the lady with the food.
Quite probably it’s not in the way you’d imagine, either. While she was a fantastic baker, and talented cake decorator, it’s rarely the homemade goodies that figure in my memories of Grandma’s house. In many ways Ms. Gloria embraced the conveniences of the modern world – little frozen pizzas that you could microwave right in their boxes, or tomato soup from the can. Her candy dish (and you’d better believe there was always a candy dish) was usually filled with M&M’s and Peppermint Patties, and the cookie jar with Oreos. Oh, sure, there was also usually a bowl of nuts, still in their shells, on the kitchen table, but as small kids, my sisters and my cousins and I were far more interested in the sweet offerings than the savory, and in the best tradition of grandmas everywhere, there were always treats on hand. Of all these goodies, however, one sticks out in my mind as truly special, unique to Grandma’s kitchen:
That’s right – as far as I knew, Grandma’s kitchen was the only place in the entire world to get Jell-O Pudding Pops. Does anyone else remember these? They existed for a brief, shining moment in the 80’s as the most perfect frozen confection the world has ever known. Creamier and more decadent than a Fudgsicle, somehow. Certainly more enticing than a regular old Popsicle, with its boring, icy fruit flavors. Ice cream may have given the Jell-O Pudding Pop a run for its money, but honestly, we didn’t get ice cream all that often, at least in my house – that was a whole different level of treat. And, let’s face it, ice cream in its native form does NOT come on a stick. Everything is better on a stick. For attainable, creamy goodness, it was all about the Pudding Pops – and they were, as far as I could tell, an item unique to my grandmother’s freezer.
If you do remember them, you’ll know that they came in three flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and the two swirled together. Clearly, the best flavor was the swirl, which allowed you the best of both worlds. For most kids, the next best flavor would be chocolate, but I have far more memories of the vanilla, creamy and dense and sweet. Heaven on a stick! Through some bizarre food magic the pops stayed ridiculously cold, as well – I never recall them melting, and touching your tongue to the surface for the first time would result in a perfect little puff of steam.
One day, Jell-O Pudding Pops mysteriously vanished from the marketplace. Perhaps it really only WAS my grandma buying these amazing treats! (Unlikely, though, given the number of websites I found related to Pudding Pop-related nostalgia.) There are rumors that they’re back, now being put out by Popsicle brand, but I’ve yet to see them, and have read that they aren’t quite the same as the Pudding Pops of old. Not to mention that, given the age of this reporting, it’s entirely possible they’ve been yanked from the shelves yet again, further denying future generations of the magic that my cousins and I shared.
However, there is still hope! My friends, you can make these beauties at home! Easily, as it turns out!
Pudding Mix (I used instant)
2 cups milk (I used 1% – but I think they’d be better and closer to the original with whole)
Something to put the pudding in, and some sticks (Literally, this could be paper cups and wooden sticks, but I bought these awesome rocket pop molds. To the future!)
Put the pudding in your chosen molds. I did this neatly, with a funnel, until the pudding, due to its instantness, set, rendering the funnel useless. Then I did it messily, with a spoon.
As stated above, I think my pops suffered a bit from being made with 1% milk. They were still delicious, but lacked the smooth creaminess of the original. I may also experiment with the cooked style pudding, just to see if there’s any difference.
And you know for sure I’m going to make a swirl!
What foods from your childhood are you nostalgic for? Any that you can’t get anymore? How have you coped?
This post was inspired by a suggestion by my cousin Vin – thanks Vin!