12 Most Nostalgic Foods From My Childhood
Molly Campbell’s post here last week about how a guy is always tied to his mother’s cooking made me realize that there are a lot of foods from my childhood that I hold sacred without really thinking about it. Some of them are sort of weird, but some of them might resonate with you and your memories too. So let’s travel down my childhood lane and see what foods are the key to my heart (and stomach!).
1. Poached egg on toast
I still remember cooking up a poached egg and a friend saying, “Yow, that looks gross!” And you know, it does, kind of. However, whenever I was feeling icky when I was a kid, my mom would cook me up a poached egg on toast. The egg was always perfectly juicy, and my mom took that extra mom-type step of cutting the whole thing up into little squares. Nummers!
2. Sausage gravy on biscuits
When I was little I spent a lot of weekends with my grandma, and inevitably she would serve up sausage gravy and biscuits. My mom and I agree that there is not a better sausage gravy out there than what my grandma used to make. I am not sure what her secret was, but boy was it delish!
3. Creamed herring
I know, this one might be tough for some of you to digest (literally and figuratively), but creamed herring tends to be a staple at Jewish brunches. We used to go over to my grandparents’ house for brunch and creamed herring was always on the table. It’s a weird taste for sure, but somehow I loved it from the very earliest days I tried it.
4. Chef Boyardee pizza
Not only do these pizzas always come out great (not too doughy, not too salty), the process of making pizzas when you’re a kid is super fun. Of course, I always wanted to be the one to oil the pan (I’d dump half the bottle of oil on the pan) or roll out the dough (stretch it so thin it would get holy, and not in a sacred sense), but even just putting on the cheese was a treat.
5. Oodles & Noodles
Now called Ramen, this great love also traces back to my grandma (and my lean college and grad school years). She would sit me down on the couch, put a TV tray over my lap, and give me a giant plastic bowl of oodles & noodles. I never knew how she made it so fast. That secret I did figure out, eventually.
6. Rice, onions and chicken livers
Now you’re really thinking I’m weird! This recipe is one my dad used to make for just us 2. My mom and brother won’t touch the stuff. He says the recipe comes from his grandma. It always seemed like I couldn’t get any hungrier and then finally it would be ready to go. I’m drooling just thinking about how rich the taste was. Mmmm.
7. Dad’s spaghetti
My parents always made their spaghetti sauce from scratch – my mom says everything my dad knows about spaghetti sauce is thanks to her, and he doesn’t tend to argue with that. However, over the years my dad took over primary spaghetti responsibilities until the meal evolved into Dad’s spaghetti. I can’t really say what makes it so good, but he always gets the sauce just right.
8. Dad’s beef barley vegetable soup
Now this is actually a recipe from a cookbook that I’ve made myself, but let me tell you something, this soup is perfect for when you have one of those awful winter colds. It’s hearty, it’s tasty, it’s tomatoey, and those little pearls of barley just add something to the mixture. I remember dad slaving over that soup many a Saturday night. I would “help” by watching
9. Tuna casserole
A school night standard, there was always something stupifyingly satisfying about this dish. All you do (though I didn’t know this when I was a little kid) is mix up a can of cream of mushroom soup with a can of tuna, dump it over cooked pasta, and bake it till it’s warmed through. But it’s so good, and I realize in retrospect it was great for my parents because it was easy to cook. In the summer we’d have our family’s special iced tea with it, and that combo of tastes still immediately recalls summers of my youth.
10. Stove top oatmeal
I remember being a kindergardener and feeling all nervous and cold and icky about going to school. Then my mom or dad would take out this old little yellow pot and that little silo of Quaker oatmeal, and I knew what was coming my way. Hot, steaming oatmeal with just the right and perfect touch of brown sugar and milk. How did they get those measurements right every single time??
11. Texas sheet cake
If you have ever had Texas sheet cake or anything remotely resembling Texas sheet cake, you know that it is one of the most amazing creations on the face of the planet. Deep, dark cake with chocolate in the middle and chocolate icing and walnuts on top – it’s really too good to be true. My grandma used to whip these things up in what seemed like 5 minutes, so I always assumed it was easy. Well my mom and I tried to bake one up a few years ago and I swear part of the recipe is to stand on your head while mixing the batter with one hand and stirring the icing with another. It’s a very complex recipe and the timing needs to be spot on. Pretty amazing that my grandma could do it flawlessly all by herself while I was asking her where my invisible friends were!
12. Thanksgiving meal
I am still very lucky that I get to enjoy our family’s recipes every Thanksgiving. My mom uses family recipes for the stuffing, for the pies, for the biscuits, and for many other things too. Of course, Thanksgiving is half thankfulness and half nostalgia anyway. You enjoy being with those around you and you think about those who can no longer make it to the table with you, at least in this realm. I have memories spanning back as far as I can remember about this holiday and the corresponding food. May it ever be so.
So there you have it! Twelve of my most nostalgic foods. Now, the real question is, what are yours?
Photo courtesy of Calsidyrose licensed via Creative Commons