By Rodney Ho The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Adam Richman made his name on TV 14 years ago as the dude on Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food, ”willing to eat gargantuan amounts of food in short periods of time, taking on challenges from various restaurants across the country. It was possibly the most American job ever and is now Casey Webb’s job on the Cooking Channel.
For Richman, it wasn’t a sustainable career for his long-term health. Nonetheless, he has since continued to find other ways to entertain audiences with food.
Richman’s latest venture on the History Channel called “Adam Eats the 80s” is a kaleidoscope of pop culture food and drink nuggets from the decade. He explores the origins of mall staples like Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s pretzels while looking back on interesting (if failed) 1980s experiments like the Domino’s breakfast pizza. The show debuted last month on the History Channel.
“People are hungry for nostalgia,” said Richman. “I mean that in earnest. Things may seem a bit bleak and dark and tumultuous today. While the 1980s wasn’t devoid of those things, it was a decade that many look back on with fondness. “
The 1980s was also a period when pop culture was far less splintered. Most everyone consumed the same TV shows, movies, music videos and commercial jingles. Food wasn’t all that different. “There was no paleo or keto or gluten-free diets,” he said. “A law was passed food advertisers to market directly to children.”
Dozens of TV shows and films had their own cereal. In the first episode, he shows off “Mr. T ”cereal. (Today, we have Baby Shark cereal while Mr. T himself is still hawking products in 2022.)
Richman, who grew up as an impressionable child of the 1980s, got to meet folks who invented some of the more notable foods of the decade such as Nerds candy, Dole Whip and Panda Express’ Orange Chicken. He digs into the Cola wars and the maturation of fast-food chains. He looks back at the time when Roy Rogers (and it’s “fixin’s bar”) was a much more popular burger chain. He tests a vintage Ginsu knife, attempting to re-enact the old TV commercials.
He has a lab re-create original McDonald’s fries cooked in beef tallow (the formula changed in 1992 using vegetable oil, and it doesn’t taste the same). He tried Coca-Cola with sucrose instead of cheaper high-fructose corn syrup, which Coke switched to in the 1980s.
Richman does an entire episode on candies that would never pass muster today like candy cigarettes, candy guns, candy boogers and candy in coffins. He goes back to the 1985 invention of Jolt Cola and its slogan: “All the sugar and twice the caffeine!” He visits Augusta to meet Russell Vandiver, who buys and sells vintage candies.
And yes, he actually samples some vintage food and drink that are decades old like A&W gum and a bag of Johnny Bench microwave popcorn. But the one that sticks out? Sampling a 41-year-old “Star Wars” -themed Pepperidge Farm cookie.
“It was Yom Kippur,” Richman said. “So we filmed right after sundown. It was the first thing to go in my body all day. You can audibly hear my stomach react. The microphone picked it up. My camera man was laughing so hard, he had to place the camera on a tripod. “
In other words, at times, the show becomes “Man vs. Really Old Food. “
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
‘ADAM EATS THE 80S’
10 pm Sundays on History and available on demand on History.com the day after for cable subscribers and video-on-demand partners.