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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont encourage readers to pop back to the past in 'Whatever Happened To Pudding Pops?'. (Red Box Pictures)

The Sweet Taste Of 'Pop' Culture Nostalgia

by NPR Staff
Jun 5, 2011 (All Things Considered)

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Whatever Happened To Pudding Pops? Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont investigate retro lunchboxes and other blasts from the past in 'Whatever Happened To Pudding Pops?'. Brian Bellmont is an award-winning food writer and Gael Fashingbauer Cooper was named one of USA Today's Top Pop Culture People in 2002.

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Do you have the Eight is Enough theme music burned into your brain? Do you fall into a Proustian reverie at the fizzy punch of Pop Rocks? Are you old enough to remember carrying a metal lunch box to school — and clobbering your friends with it?

Then you're the perfect age to appreciate a new book called Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes & Trends of the '70s & '80s. It's a catalogue of things designed to make you smile and say, "Oh yeah, I remember that!" Candy cigarettes, Fantasy Island, encyclopedias, and Stretch Armstrong dolls all make an appearance.

Co-author Gael Fashingbauer Cooper tells weekend on All Things Considered host Rachel Martin that she wanted to preserve bits of pop culture that slipped away without anyone noticing.

"The speed of change gets lost sometimes, when we're in the middle of it, and I think looking back is something we don't always do enough," she says.

Cooper, who wrote the book with Brian Bellmont, had another, more personal reason for writing the book.

"I'm the youngest of seven, and all my brothers and sisters are baby boomers," she says. "Their pop culture ... dominated my life. And so to look back on my own was kind of a fresh experience for me."

But why pudding pops? Cooper says the sweet treats embody the experience she's trying to capture in her book.

"They were here in the '80s, thanks to the Bill Cosby ads, everyone knew about them, and then they vanished for a while," she says. "And then they very quietly came back in about 2000 or so."

Cooper says purists complain that the rebooted Pudding Pop doesn't taste the same, but they're still a welcome sight in the freezer case.

"The joy that you would see in a person who would be like, 'Pudding Pops are back?' That was kind of like why we wanted to do the book," she says. "To tell them, you know, so many things from your childhood may be back. They may have different names or different formats, but a lot of this can be found, and we're gonna tell you where you can find it."

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Whatever Happened To Pudding Pops?
By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont
Paperback, 240 pages
Perigee Trade
List Price: $12.95
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