As in, the kind of rubbish I ate as a youngster. Out of the house. At school. After school.
I was a child of (for the most part) the Eighties. There was a lot of terrible food: Findus Crispy Pancakes, Pot Noodles, boil-in-the-bag fish and so on. Processed stuff was everywhere at the time, although interestingly to this day I've never actually tried a Crispy Pancake. It was back when, post The Good Life and Laura Ashley and the publication of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, we were all about American influences. On TV and film, on fashion, and on food. I remember going to a newly-opened McDonalds for a birthday party and we were all ridiculously excited at the prospect of burgers and fries.
The words 'organic', 'artisan' and 'seasonal' were not yet part of the epicurean vocabulary, let alone that of regular consumers. Food, to a young Me, was exciting: artificially coloured and sweetened and enticingly packaged and advertised. I was, like most children, a sucker for a gimmick. I once went to great efforts to befriend a not-very-likeable girl simply because she had a Soda Stream.
At home we ate simple food, cooked from scratch. It was the least expensive option at the time. The frozen and packaged stuff got short shrift and rarely made an appearance. If it did, it was usually in dessert form (Angel Delight or a just-add-whatever cheesecake topping mixture, or Rowntrees jelly made with tinned fruit suspended in it). Fresh cream during the week wasn't something we had. Instead, Tip Top. Sweet and runny and poured straight from the tin.
At high school we progressed from school dinners and packed lunches to dinner money. This was spent on some truly dreadful foodstuffs. In fact, I can remember very clearly three of my favourite lunchtime options:
1. A hot dog with ketchup and onions, purchased from the ever-present (and now, apparently, banned) ice cream vans parked outside the school gates. The hot dog was invariably followed by a 'screwball' - whippy ice cream in a clear plastic cone with a bubble gum dropped into the bottom and a flake on top.
2. A cheese and onion pie with the lid carefully removed. KP Meanies or a packet of Space Raiders (both cheap, pickled onion flavour 'savoury snacks') were pressed into the cheese filling then the lid was replaced again. This abomination was eaten sitting on the wall of Joan's* shop. The very embodiment of fine dining.
3. A Cornish pasty from the bakery with an iced finger for pudding.
*Joan was one of the angriest women I've ever met. She despised children. Running a shop opposite a high school probably wasn't the wisest career choice.
Oh dear. If I ate like that now I'd be in agony from stomach cramps no doubt, not to mention in need of an entire new wardrobe several sizes up from my current one. When I think of all the sweets (kola kubes, Skittles, cherry lips, gummy bears) and the fizzy pop and the chocolate...
Things didn't improve that much when I progressed to the sixth form. Helping to run the tuck shop wasn't the best favour I ever did for my dietary health. And the little kitchen downstairs served up soggy chips which smelt deliciously of vinegar, and meltingly soft jacket potatoes with their centres scooped out and refilled with bubbling, lightly-browned cheese. Everything was served up in white paper bags which quickly turned transparent from the amount of grease oozing out of the food.
Once I got to university I continued on my path of nutrient-devoid eating, particularly in my second year when I moved out of halls of residence and into a shared house. Kwik Save sold 'Doll' noodles for twenty pence a pack. You covered them with boiling water then sprinkled an alarmingly-hued powder into them, once drained, for flavour. Student food was very bad indeed. My friend Chris once said, in all sincerity, that there was nothing he enjoyed eating more than No Frills bread thickly spread with Stork margarine. I really do hope things got better for him.
Of course, somewhere along the road I found my way again and started cooking and eating well. I do still enjoy a treat but sweets really don't do it for me any more. Chips... Yes, occasionally. And I still love a bag of pickled onion flavoured savoury snacks. But Crispy Pancakes? I don't think I'd ever be tempted. I don't even know if you can still buy them...