AI: Back to School Edition

At my last corporate job, every year around this time we’d have a pot-luck lunch, where everyone would bring in their favorite foods from childhood. Fruit roll-ups, fluffernutters, pb & j, vegemite, mac n’ cheese, “bugs on logs” (cream cheese filled celery with raisins on top)… yeah, I miss that pot-luck.

What was your favorite food as a kid? Do you go back a revisit when you’re craving comfort foods?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. My grandma’s chicken soup. I don’t know what she did, but it was the best food ever. And she always had a separate bowl of noodles just for me because I loved extra noodles.

    I used to eat it by the vat… even in the middle of July.

    Grandma’s not around anymore, and my love of meat went away shortly after she did. I guess it’s best that way. I can’t try to replicate it.

    Soup is still one of my favorite foods though… and even though it’s not Grandma’s homemade chicken soup, I still slurp it down on hot July afternoons.

  2. Anything “English Boarding School” takes me back, but I have a special place in my heart for;

    Starter; Cheese Pinwheels
    Main Couse; Spam Fritters, Fried Eggs, Chips (all done in “old” [used many times previously] Beef dripping and Lard) Baked Beans (cooked for at least 30min on a pan with continuous stirring to thicken them up) and thick cut home made bread with semi-rancid butter.
    Desert: Jam Rolly Polly and thick custard


  3. Kraft dinner and Shake&Bake pork chops (barbecue flavor)

    I’ll have a box of mac and cheese every so often, but I haven’t eaten a pork chop in almost 23 years.

  4. Speaking of fluffernutters, I was trying to explain how delicious they are to some Dutch people and they were disgusted at the very concept.

    They proceeded to put peanut butter on already (dairy) buttered bread. Ick.

  5. My favorite childhood foods were cheesecake and, believe it or not, Vegemite. My dad did a sabbatical in Australia and I got hooked on the stuff. I ration my cheesecake intake. I make one about once a year, but I eat Vegemite every chance I get. My wife won’t even let me open the jar when she’s in the kitchen, however.

  6. Overcooked runny mac ‘n’ cheese. My partner hates all variations of mac ‘n’ cheese, so it’s my comfort food when he’s away.

    Apple pie because my grandfather made the most amazing ones, often especially for me because he knew I loved his. I make one that’s almost as good as his and eating a slice always brings me right back to my grandparent’s kitchen table.

    Mashed potatoes with diced raw onions thrown in. It’s how my mother always makes them and I could eat them by the vat.

  7. I loved pork & beans. Then one day I came down with the flu or something after having eaten some, pure coincidence, and it was years before I would try it again.

  8. Oh, and Cherry Mash. I used to get a nickel allowance and that would just cover a candy bar. For those of you who haven’t experienced this delicacy it is roughly hemispherical with some sort of tangy, slightly chewy sweet red stuff on the inside coated completely with cheap chocolate and nuts. I thought these were dead and gone until Alton Brown found one at a gas station on _Feasting on Asphalt_. He thought it was disgusting. I’m sure as an adult I would too. Since I don’t go to gas stations any more I reckon I’ll never have the opportunity to find out.

  9. my first few years were spent on Taiwan (dad was in the navy)… we used to go to the Mongolian BBQ, yumm…
    After moving back to the states in 1960, dad was still in the navy at Balboa in San Diego, and my mom got a job, so I ended up being a latchkey kid. This is really going to bother some ppl but here goes. I used to make butter sandwitches….
    white bread, pats of hard butter, slathered with white sugar ! fold it up and consume ! Forgive me… ;)

  10. Without a doubt, malasadas, specifically the ones from Leonard’s Bakery in Kapahulu. I always get some when I go home to Hawaii. It’s good I only do that once a year, because I always end up eating like a half-dozen in one sitting.

  11. Graham crackers with peanut butter… oh heaven!

    Still eat this sometimes while watching movies or in the middle of the night when the mood hits.

    I have a reserve box and jar over at the boyfriend’s apartment… just in case!

  12. Proper british fish & chips (huge haddock, skinned, floury old spuds) fried in ANCIENT beef dripping with beef dripping gravy and massive pickled onion plus bread and butter and pint of hot sweet tea

  13. I never thought of mashed potatoes as a “childhood” food… I mean… I ate ’em as a kid… but I still eat ’em as an adult. They were just part of dinner.

    Not like frozen Capri Suns…. *that* was a childhood food of mine… and Otter Pops!

  14. @marilove I believe that “gravy” is just an Italian-American way of saying “sauce”, at least it was used that way amongst my Italian neighbors in New Jersey.

  15. My favorite food/eating memories as a child were at our beach house in Westport WA eating crab, clams and salmon with my grandmother’s homemade crusty bread with pots of melted butter, garlic and lemon to dip everything in. The associated breakfast memory was razor clams dipped in an egg wash, then crunched up saltine crackers and fried in bacon fat.

  16. I was a child during the Apollo moon missions, so my favorite has to be Space Food Sticks.

    Space Food Sticks were a commercialized version of a NASA emergency food ration. Sort of an ancient ancestor of today’s Powerbars. (Just like Mom used to make! Mom was a chemical engineer.)

    Pillsbury sold them vigorously during the Apollo era, but the product died after NASA stopped grabbing the big headlines.

    Then somebody discovered that they remained on the market in tiny quantities under a different name in Australia. Space Food Sticks now have a cult following on the internet, via the Space Food Sticks Preservation Society:

    I’m a member of the cult, and thus occasionally order a box or two of the revived Space Food Sticks.

    99% of you are now wondering what in the hell I’m on about. But one of you, of about my same age, just started screaming “They Still EXIST???!!!” and is rushing off to order a truckload of chewy, highly artificial, heavily processed, nostalgia.

  17. @ekimbrough ewwww space food sticks.. i remember those.. had the consistncy of pencil erasers (kinka looked like em too) pink ones and blue ones. But i guess it’s not as bad as butter sandwitches.

  18. Cardboard Pizza. A desent amount on cheese, not a lot of sauce, and some bits of pepperoni. Before anyone says anything, you turn the pizza over, and see rings, like corrugated cardboard-that’s how it gets its name.

  19. My favorite food as a kid was probably McDonalds. In college, however, I picked up a love of grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup.

    Not that I get to eat it here in the sweaty crotch of the United States.

  20. I used to love Flintstones Push Ups and McDonald’s chicken mcnugget happy meals. I mainly loved those for the free toys though. Hah. Also, i know it’s a drink, but i have fond memories of drinking squeez-its. Cherry was my favorite flavor. I was so upset when our grocery store stopped selling them. I think that potluck lunch is an excellent idea. I wish we’d do something like that at work.

  21. For me it was fresh crab from fisherman’s wharf, we would get them right out of the giant boiling pots and take them home. Serve them chilled with crusty sourdough bread and artichokes. There would be a couple of big bowls on the table to throw the shells and artichoke leaves in. A cold olympia beer to wash it down.

  22. @marilove: Soup like vichyssoise?

    No not like potatoe cakes. Mashed spuds left overnight fried up in the frying pan with day old boiled cabbage (shredded) and raw onions. As a big solid mass in the pan the flipped when crispy and brown on one side.

    Some people add curry powder, chillies and white fish.

    Usually served for breakfast

  23. My grandfather made the most delicious wonderful biscuits. He passed away a few years ago and I really miss him.

    I’m trying to master his recipe but haven’t yet some up with an acceptable version that doesn’t contain lard.

  24. @russellsugden: Well, when I was thinking “potato cakes”…I was actually thinking something similar, just minus the cabbage. Leftover mashed potatoes fried up with onions and other randomness. And usually served at breakfast! So I think maybe my potato cakes aren’t really potato cakes?

  25. @marilove: Semi-rancid butter is butter that’s not been stored in the fridge but in the cupboard in a non-airtight container so it goes really yellow, tangy and salty. And I never mentioned vomit!

    At the begining of her incumbancy the former, not lamented, MrsSugden had quite a liking for a post coitus breakfast of Eggs Benedict Royalé and Mango chutney on wholewheat toast.

  26. @marilove: Think of it like a plate-sized latke.

    Have you tried Gazpacho soup? It can be boosted with a couple of shots of vodka, to make “Bloody Mary Soup”

    Vodka and Soup. Think about it.

  27. @russellsugden: Ok that sounds delicious, but I’d chop some pork sausage and cook it all in leftover grease.

    Learning to cook was purely a self-defence mechanism to protect me from my mother’s crimes against food. Thankfully I had grandparents: hot-water cornbread with butter beans and brown sugar-baked ham. Fried catfish, fried okra with hush puppies. Homemade bread with fresh butter and homemade blackberry jelly.

  28. @Gabrielbrawley: I would have thought it’d be the Jam Rolly Polly you’d find unpleasant.

    Suet pastry is made from flour mixed with water and a large amount of suet, the fat from around a cows kidneys and liver chopped up into really small pieces. It’s like a gooey dough thats >50% fat.

    Thats rolled out on a floured surface and smeared with jam and rolled up. This is then wrapped in a floured cloth, tied up and dropped into boiling water for an hour or so.

    Suet puddings used to be the backbone of english cookery.

  29. @Gabrielbrawley: My grandad eat beef dripping (thats the fat that comes off beef when you cook it, which you buy from the butcher) known as “mucky fat” because it’s streaky brown fat mixed with some sort of brown meat jelly that comes off sandwiches for lunch at work every day for 45 years. For a treat he would put marmite on one side of the bread.

    Sadly we don’t eat really food anymore, it’s mainly salads and humus these days it seems.

    There are times I could murder for a bit of fried cheese.

    Back when I was in UOTC, we’d eat pretty much anything that we could lay our hands on. Birds of any kind, Worms, and on more than one occasion roast dog.

  30. @Tanstaafl56: You must be remembering the disturbingly bizarre Mint and Orange Space Food Sticks, which were not even vaguely food-like. If you confine your selection to Chocolate and Peanut Butter, as most aficionados do, your opinion of Space Food Sticks would likely improve.

    But you don’t eat them because they’re chocolate flavored or peanut-butter flavored. You eat them because they’re NASA-flavored.

  31. @JOHNEA13: Spam-day was the happiest day of the week at my school. We literally ran to be at the front of the queue.

    Tinned meat, sliced, battered and fried, with fried eggs beans and chip, you couldn’t beat that as far as we were concerned.

    That was the zenith of the menu at my boarding school, everything was bland and unpleasant in comparison (a lot of stewed mutton and stewed beef)

  32. @ekimbrough:
    Oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man!!!!!!
    I do believe in sticks. I do believe in sticks. I do believe in sticks.
    I can remember they way you didn’t really bite them, as much as you would pinch off a piece with your teeth. I’d just let the last morsel dissolve in my mouth, trying to hold onto the flavor. Peanut butter was absolutely the best.

  33. Screaming Yellow Zonkers.

    You can’t find them much anymore, but every now and then some of them show up in Walgreens. My parents loved to dance and on Saturday nights, they went out with thier friends to dance at places that had live music. They would get us some snacks for the evening and we would stay up late, watching old movies. Screaming Yellow Zonkers were the best and always remind me of my childhood.

    And I recall Space Stick. I may have to order some.

  34. Mom used to get ground bologna from the deli and I ate that every day at home for lunch. I think it was mixed with a bit of pickle relish. I loved it so much we had ground bologna finger sandwiches at my wedding reception. Haven’t had it since.

    My grandma always ate those pink wintergreen candies, so I look for them at drugstores just so I can remember her. They kill my teeth but I can’t resist.

  35. Kraft Mac & Cheese
    peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
    mashed potatoes, with peas mixed in
    grilled cheese sandwiches
    Racelette or Pierrade feasts
    my father’s fettuccine alfredo
    my mother’s lasagna
    shake-n-bake pork chops
    All of which I still eat regularly to this day. In fact, we had shake-n-bake (chicken) and mashed potatoes for dinner tonight!

    My food growing up was very plain and simple. No sauces, no dressings, no ketchup… No fruit roll-ups, no marshmallows, no popsicles (except what my mother made out of regular apple juice), no Skippy ice cream…
    I remember once I won a jar of candy corns at a school assembly and my mother “lost” them. She totally freaked when I came home from an amusement park with a roll of Bubble Tape…

  36. @ justncase80 Apparently, it’s ants if it’s peanut butter, and bugs if it’s cream cheese.

    Up til today, I was only familiar with Ants on a Log though, and yes, I made them with peanut butter too. I made them fairly recently. I put them in a lunch for my wife and it must have hit upon a childhood memory for her, because she said she got a little teary-eyed when she ate them.

    This thread is making me nostalgic and hungry.

  37. Chips and salsa. With or without melted cheddar cheese.

    And homemade guacamole. Mmmm, guac.

    Funny thing, though – I still eat these things quite regularly!

  38. Fairy bread! (White bread, buttered, with 100s and 1000s sprinkled on). I still insist on having it at my birthday parties, even though I’m in my 20s lol.
    And Girl Guide biscuit sandwiches (I don’t know how similar GG biscuits are to Girl Scout cookies, but they taste sort of like Vanilla Wines) – same deal, white bread, butter, biscuits sandwiched between two slices.

    Can someone tell me what a fluffernutter is? It sounds intriguing.

  39. Bannock cooked on a stick over a fire and filled with jam; cabane a sucre (maple syrup boiled into a toffee and cooled on fresh snow); lemon squares; chocolate cookies with bumps; caribou burgers; Kool-Aid popsicles; saskatoonberry anything, but especially pie with vanilla ice cream; waffles with chokecherry syrup; and mandarin oranges, which have always tasted exactly like Christmas to me.
    Crap, now I’m hungry.

  40. Hormel Pickled Pigs Feet. My Dad turned me on to them when I was too young to comprehend how disgusting they are. I’m now a vegetarian but when I reminisce about sucking and slurping on those gelatinous covered white little piggy knuckles, well…sniff..I just get all misty.

  41. My mom made the best soups ever from beef barley to turkey- the bones boiled for a day then the ingredients simmered for another. I also loved KFC (when it had a longer name) now when I buy it its not the same and I’m convinced its changed- I mean it could be my memory but it used to be more spicy, less greasy does anyone agree or is it just a false memory?

  42. @mikekoz68: Have you moved? There’s more regional variation than you’d expect in some of those chains.

    Or possibly you’ve just grown acclimated to spicy foods, so while the KFC recipe hasn’t changed, your tastebuds have.

  43. @ Gabrielbrawley

    If I didn’t know that you were a comrade in arms – a critically thinking, rational human being I’d trash talk you.

    Ah … what the hell … I will anyway.

    “Oh yeah!!!”


    My grade school used to serve pizza every Wednesday. Individual rectangular pizzas, with the crust almost like cardboard really, with little dots of sausage on top. I loved it so.

    Also: Nacho cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos. Cheese sticks. “Yogurt” covered fruit snacks.
    Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches. Grilled cheese. Mac & Cheese of any kind. Filo spinach pie with feta.

    Mom tended to make pretty healthy lunches. Though the occasional fruit roll-up was packed in with my lunch, I always found them a little too chewy.

    And, @davew

    Been meaning to mention for a while now:

    I love your foodieness. Keep up the good work.

    That is all.

  45. Macaroni and cheese my mom made at my grandfather’s house. It could only be made in a certain pan and on his wood-burning stove. She had made it at home but it was never as good.

    The cheese was old-fashioned hoop cheddar cheese made by an artisan my great uncle carried at his general store. The recipe included whole milk and and egg. There was just something about the combination of the natural ingredients and that wood-burning stove that gave it the extra flavor.

    After my grandfather died, my mom got the pan but it was never the same dish without the special cheese and that stove.

  46. I doubt anyone is still reading this, but I just remembered another food from my childhood. I used to make spaghetti sandwiches. I used to get bored with a big plate of spaghetti in front of me, so I would but margarine on a piece of bread, then fold it in half and fill it with spaghetti from my plate. Go carbs!

  47. @Finn McR: I’m not sure, I don’t think the names of these sorts of things are hard and fast.

    @Gabrielbrawley: UOTC, University Officer Training Corps. When I was young (18) and stupid, a kindly man in a nice uniform told me that the army would like to pay my way through uni and in exchange I’d have to spend a small amount of time wearing a cool uniform, traveling the world, “scoring pussy” and being tucked in at night with a hot chocolate by the CO. They owned my arse for three years outright and STILL have first call on it should Russia invade. You were in the gulf so I’m sure you’re aware of how well supplied the British Army is.

    I went to school with a guy whose father was a millionaire many times over from his business selling Tripe, Aelder, Cows Tongue and Pigs feet. We sometimes used to have boiled tripe on a saturday with vinager, and aelder (even I don’t know exactly what aelder is, but it came in a big pressed block and tasted weird).

    We only ate boiled tongue at christmas as an extra special treat. I can see it now, the huge cows tongue, boiled, allowed to cool and nailed to a wooden block as the centrepiece of the table

  48. Tortilla chips (Tostitos brand, and not baked) dipped in lemon yogurt. The salt and sour was perfect. Later on I branched out to saltines sometimes (Premium brand, never Krispy) and once in a while raspberry or blueberry yogurt.

    But sweet jesus those chips and yogurt were good. Salty soury slightly sweet goodness.

  49. @russellsugden: Ah, okay we call it ROTC. Actually over in the gulf we were really envious of the Brits. Their CUU’s looked way cooler than ours, and they were allowed beer in their compound. I knew someone who was able to score a gig where they served on a british ship and they were allowed 2 beers a day. They saved up their rations and got a keg. Damn it you people drink like fish.

  50. @Gabrielbrawley: Army slang for a lamb “borrowed” from a local farmer and BBQ’d whole in a rather hapzard way

    Ironically, we’er obessed with how much better equiped you are than us. The green zone has 20 Subways, 10 Pizza Huts, numerous Burger Kings, car rentals and so on and so on, while the tabloid papers in britain have organised a campaign for people to send soap, coffee, tinned food and toilet paper out to our troops because they don’t have any!

    The ratio of toilets to troops is 1 to 100, a toilet being a big hole in the ground with 3 foot box around it.

    The relative paucity of our army is a ongoing news story, at least twice a week there’ll be a story about not enough body armour to go around, wrong sort of boots, bad kit generally, no armoured transports etc etc.

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