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Without experimentation, Pop-Tarts still worth craving

Burt's Eye View

“Stop! You almost passed the Pop-Tarts.”

“Let’s not leave the job half done,” my wife called over her shoulder. She pushed the shopping cart farther down the grocery aisle.

I grabbed a 12-pack of frosted strawberry and caught up to her. “Don’t worry. I got them.”

Terry reshelved the Pop-Tarts. “No. You’re 60 years old.”

“Big boys eat Pop-Tarts, too,” I whined. “Ooh, look, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop-Tarts. Can we get them? Huh? Can we?”

When I was 5, the Kellogg Company introduced Pop-Tarts, ending the drudgery of gloppy oatmeal. Now we had pre-cooked toaster pastries pumped full of sugary strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon and apple currant jam that fit in our hands. Then it got even better — Kellogg gilded Pop-Tarts with frosting and sprinkles.

Back in those days, sugar wasn’t a bad thing.

“Yes, it was,” Terry said. “You ignored it.”

“But look.” I waved a box of Hot Fudge Sundae Pop-Tarts. “It says right here, a ‘good source of seven vitamins and minerals.'”

She tapped the side panel. Nothing good ever comes of parents or wives reading the nutritional label.

“One pastry contains 190 calories, 45 of them from fat. Eight percent of your daily value of saturated fat and 11 percent of your carbs.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “And you eat two. Four, if I’m not watching.”

“Those numbers are based on a 2,000-calories-a-day wimpy person diet. I probably do like 3,000, so the percentages are lower. Healthy, even,” I said. “I’m good.”

I wasn’t. We left the grocery store without Pop-Tarts. Strike another delicious bite of childhood from the you’re-a-senior-now-so-behave menu.

In the late 1970s, microwave ovens took over the country. I learned that if I tossed a foil packet of Pop-Tarts into my college roommate’s microwave, sparks would fly. He eventually calmed down, though.

Later, Pop-Tarts switched to Mylar pouches that didn’t blow up microwaves.

Here’s another fun fact: In 1994, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi professor Patrick Michaud proved that when left in a toaster too long, strawberry Pop-Tarts produce flames that shoot about 1 1/2 feet high.

We never conducted this experiment ourselves, but I did learn that toasting moldy bread will cause you to fling open dorm room windows even if it’s 27 degrees below zero outside and vacate the premises for at least eight hours.

I don’t know what the toaster does to moldy Pop-Tarts. None of the boxes we bought lasted long enough to run a proper experiment.

Pop-Tarts have stood the test of time, rolling out innovation after flavor innovation — cookies and cream, s’mores, red velvet, confetti cupcake, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry milkshake and pumpkin spice (no, thanks) among dozens of other shocks of gooey goodness — to fill the thin, rectangular crusts over the years.

Someday, there will be coffee-flavored Pop-Tarts. My wife will buy anything coffee-flavored. Even Pop-Tarts, I suspect. When she does, I get to have a turn, too. I’m pouncing on those Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts.

I promise not to turn the toaster into a flame-thrower.

— Eat kid stuff with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.

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