Back in 1893, vendors at the World’s Fair in Chicago made a concoction of popcorn, peanuts, and molasses that was wildly popular. A few years later, in 1896, their sweet invention went on to become sold as Cracker Jack.
The history of junk food may have largely unfolded in America, but Americans aren’t the only ones reaching for a bag of chips — or a packet of crisps, depending on where you’re from. Though our portion sizes here in the States may be bigger, junk food is popular the world over.
Monique Richard, a licensed and registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Nutrition-In-Sight, says that junk food is an appealing snack food the world over.
“No matter the culture, traditions surrounding food, or location on the planet, humans are attracted to fat, salt, and sugar,” Richard, who is also an integrative clinical dietitian in two primary care facilities and adjunct faculty in nutrition at East Tennessee State University, says, “In my travels that include Egypt, Haiti, China, Israel, Italy, and India, I have noticed that sweet treats and salty snacks are a source of pleasure and comfort for many. Chips in Egypt include ketchup-flavored Lay's and those handmade by vendors on the street. There are also bakeries galore with cakes and cookies, breads and rolls as well as ice cream-like treats — gelato in Italy, frozen custards and creams in Israel — in all the countries I have experienced.”
Junk food encompasses most of the items we find ourselves snacking on when we need comfort and instant gratification: chips, pretzels, ice cream, and sweets like chocolate, among many others out there. Although we may try our hardest to ditch the junk, it’s addicting. Just think of that catchy little Pringles jingle: “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop!” Well, that can easily be applied to the world of junk food as a whole.
So grab a bag of Lay’s potato chips — just kidding, listen to your mother and stay away from that junk! — and travel with us to Israel, where Bamba is the junk food of choice, or Australia, where you’ll find cupboards filled with Twisties.
“I was thrilled," says Susan Barnes of TravlinGirl.com, "when, during a stop at the Atomium [the building-size model atom originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World 's Fair], I saw a group of school kids pause for their mid-morning snack — waffles! Yes, the tasty Belgian waffles were individually wrapped, much like our Little Debbie cakes or the like, and they began munching away. I bought about three eight-to-a-pack packages of waffles to bring back with me and savored every bite!” Barnes went on to take a train to Waterloo and the vending machine in the train lobby had — you guessed it! — individually packaged waffles! These treats are available everywhere! Snack vending machines are actually quite popular in Belgium. In fact, you can also get another junk food fave — hot, greasy fries — from them.
"I would say one of the most ubiquitous junk foods in Brazil," says travel journalist and Lonely Planet author Kevin Raub, "is the beloved coxinha, which is best translated as sort of a chicken croquette, and usually comes in two versions, with or without Brazilian cream cheese (catupury), Shredded chicken is wrapped up in dough shaped like a chicken leg and fried to high heaven. It's a very popular on-the-go snack, available at every bakery and boteco (local bar) in town. They are often doused with housemade hot sauces as well.”