Three Things You Learn When Lunchables Go Fancy in 2021

For some of you, this will be a visit down memory lane invoking flashbacks of the power of assembling your own lunch, having the envy of your peers, or being a kid in a divorced family. For others, you may be reading this as you are alternating cracker, cheese, meat, cheese, cracker while binge-watching Netflix in two-day-old underwear.

But first, a brief look back at how the iconic Lunchable came to be.

Kraft Heinz released the Lunchables brand in 1989 after their focus groups of American mothers (it’s always the mothers, isn’t it?) indicated time was a barrier in fixing breakfast and packing lunches for their kids. 

Savvy marketers, capitalizing on mother guilt, quickly threw together Oscar Mayer’s red meat, Kraft cheese, and crackers that wouldn’t get soggy, and Lunchables was born. And mothers moved on to feel guilty about the next thing. 

It’s now 2021.  Thirty-two years after the birth of Lunchables! If that doesn’t make you feel really old, you must be really young. Let’s see what we learn about Lunchables and life from Tasty’s Chef Rie and her fans when she tackles the challenge, “Can Rie Make Pizza Lunchables Fancy?

Lesson 1

Skip your user design and experience class and just study Lunchables.  Obviously, it is a case study on how to market a product as an open road to upward social mobility and lasting brand loyalty even into adulthood.  

They are gloriously presented in their self-contained, slick-looking organized trays, which empower the customers to create their own meal using perfectly cut uniform food.  

Back in their early days, no one cared that they were heavily processed and unhealthy (it took eight years for health advocates to complain).  And kids would do anything to get their hands on a Lunchable, even if it meant delinquency.

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Why?  Because everyone knew that Lunchables were the surefire gateway to the “in crowd.”

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And still, in the same packaging, but with the addition of herbs, Lunchables retain their appeal even as we age.

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Although perhaps they should come with a warning–common side effects of consuming or even seeing Lunchables may include gas, hunger, and childhood flashbacks, which may be painful and loud.  

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Lesson 2

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the psyche. Did you know that Lunchables are a driver of self-esteem? And no, we aren’t talking about having the best charcuterie board at the party.

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With their delightfully round crackers and meats and cheese sprinkles as the foundation, they promote body positivity and self-acceptance as they drag you closer to heart disease with 16 grams of fat and 700 milligrams of sodium.  

As Chef Rie breaks up the original Lunchable components, adds 17 other ingredients, and transforms them into spheres, endomorphs rejoice when she says, “Anything round is cute.”

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When the resulting croquettes are fully formed, all the imperfect humans feel validated when she admires their shortcomings before sending them into the deep fry.  

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Lesson 3

This lesson is purely capitalistic.  Lunchables are a prime example of how the right person can take anything cheap and simple and turn it into an expensive and complex thing that will have the attention of almost a million viewers.  

Even though the edited video was just over 11 minutes, you know it took longer to make those darn balls.  The whole mise en place must have taken at least 30 minutes. This timeframe was beyond what any reasonable non-culinary human could endure.

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Then there was the complication of the process.

There are four components in a Pizza Lunchable—three pizza crusts, a pizza sauce packet, nine pepperoni slices, and one serving of mozzarella cheese.  Chef Rie adds in a whopping 17 ingredients: oregano, basil, parsley, heavy cream, eggs, parmesan cheese, garlic, butter, shredded mozzarella, burrata, olive oil, salt, panko, flour, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder.

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Maybe the title of this video should have been, “Can Chef Rie Use a Pizza Lunchable in a Croquette Recipe and Get Away with Serving It at a Fancy Restaurant?” Lunchables start around $1.50 a box, but with the added ingredients and fancy garnish, Person already has a price point for us.

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At the end of the video, fans are overwhelmed at transforming a basic Lunchable into an unrecognizable, fancy dish and wistfully dream even bigger.

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Mardon, silly, you don’t need a chef.  Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and follow these surefire Lunchable-tested steps.  First, find a party vulnerable to guilt, present yourself in attractive packaging, and give off a sense of nostalgia.  Second, undergo an intense transformation while simultaneously accepting your imperfections.  Third, look expensive and complicated while surrounding yourself with delightful garnish. Soon everyone around you will be screaming bon appetit and requesting reservations.




When she is not cruising the comment section for ways to inject her dark humor, Ursula Saqui, Ph.D., drinks tea, runs, and practices being a foodie.  Find her everywhere at UrsulaSaqui.

Categories: Essay

Daily Drunk

Shawn Berman runs The Daily Drunk. You can follow him on Twitter @Sbb_writer.

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