What foods & drinks take you back to the best part of your childhood?

My favorite niece just called me and asked that I make her a chicken casserole and lemon cheesecake for her birthday. This was a dish my mother (and her grandmother) always made for her birthday, and for her it both summons memories of her grandma and encapsulates the best part of childhood. I am doing it, of course, because she’s my favorite niece. Anyway, it makes me wonder what food summons back the best part of childhood for you.


My dad’s chicken & dumplings. He would boil three hens to get this broth that was so incredibly rich, then he made the dumplings (actually flat noodles) from scratch, rolled them out, floured them and had them laying out on newspaper all over the kitchen. The result is just unbelievable. I’m going to have to try that soon!

artichokes with drawn butter, new potatoes and fillet of sole with german chocolate cake with cooked fudge frosting for dessert, my dads favorite meal [apparently it was what they had for dinner when he proposed to my mom]

We used to have it 3 or 4 times a year. Still one of my favorite meals also though I will frequently substitute blood orange for the lemon with the sole.

I have absolutely no idea what this dish is called, but in my family it’s known as “the yellow tuna stuff.” It’s a white sauce mixed with mustard and tuna, and you spread it over crackers. It looks and sounds disgusting, but it tastes awesome, and it was one of my favorite meals of my childhood. It has to be with crackers, too–we’ve tried it on rice, among other things, but it just isn’t the same.

My mother’s Christmas baked goods also bring back lots of good childhood memories. Candy cane cookies, which have almond extract in them (I still love the smell of almond extract, for this very reason), Russian tea cakes, sugar cookies that we would decorate ourselves, and stocking cookies, with “surprises” like chocolate chips and m&m’s in them. And then there were the cinnamon rolls, which she made with sour cream and pecans, which we always ate on Christmas day, with our special china. Always a good time.

Chocolate meringue pie. My grandmother in Arkansas made a killer one and always had one ready for us when we visited her.

She also made something we dubbed “green salad,” which I’ve never seen since she died. It was not really a salad, but rather a layer of cream cheese with green Jello covering the top. Or maybe the cream cheese was sandwiched between the green-Jello top and bottom. It was much, much better than I’m making it sound.

Dobos torte. My step-grandmother made it for grandpa’s birthday, then my grandma took up the task after her passing, and made it for my mom’s birthday too. Then mom made it for mine, then my wife took up the tradition after mom passed.

I seem to remember now shredded carrots mixed in with the Jello. Not certain. But I sure would like to have that again.

Lucozade - my Mum always brought it when i was nearly recovered from illness.

This. Glass bottle, crinkly wrapper.

My mother makes chocolate chip cookies for my birthday and Christmas. That does it.

Also, Cream Soda, which I used to love.

Lake perch, breaded and pan-fried, most Friday nights.


Coney Dogs.

Specifically Coney Dogs from Coney Island Hot Dogs in Kalamazoo, MI.

My dad would take my brother and I there for lunch on Christmas Eve when we were kids. I have now carried on the tradition to my kids.

Butter (or margarine) soaked biscuits crumbled up with a homemade rich dark chocolate syrup. I have it only on holidays because it’s just so naughty.

I suppose if I had some Tang and peanut butter crackers it would really take me back to my childhood, but I don’t want to risk it.

Tuna noodle casserole. It’s embarassing, because as a foodie I’m supposed to abhor anything made with condensed cream of something soup… but it’s the one food that immediately makes me feel like I’m ten years old again.

Also… Portuguese cod fish fritters made with chunks of salt cod and mashed potatoes and plenty of fresh parsley. I’ve yet to find anyone who makes them the way my grandmother did - most people get the ratio of cod to potato completely wrong. I’d make 'em myself if it didn’t require dragging out the deep fryer.

Real chicken soup, with either matso balls or kreplach.

And a turkey with stuffing, cooked inside a brown paper bag. And yes, the entire house was filled with delicious turkey-smoke.

California Casserole. My grandmother used to make it, and even though I haven’t had it in at least 20 yrs, I can still remember that wonderful taste.

Taste really does have a memory, doesn’t it?

Cocoa, made with condensed milk.

Chicken, covered in a breadcrumb, dried ginger, basil mixture, fried in lots and lots of butter.

This may sound odd, but Filipino food takes me back.

My Mom and Dad divorced in '72 when I was about 5 y/o. Mom never really learned to cook, trusting to the likes of Del Monte and cooking meat to shoe leather. Dad was a decent cook (when I visited), in a former-Navy guy kind of way, but it was really plain, uninteresting food.

Then new people moved into the house across the street: a retired Air Force guy and his Filipino wife, Norma.

Norma was a dear (and my first real crush), and she took my Mom under her wing in the kitchen and taught her how to really cook. Pancit, mechado, lumpia, and adobo were a few of my introductions to real food, cooked well.

When they’d do lechon, the whole neighborhood went nuts (in a very good way!)from the smell.

Chicken fajitas. Whenever we had chicken fajitas the entire family would be in the kitchen helping with prep work. Someone would be chopping vegetables. Someone would be shredding cheese. Someone would be setting the table and doing dishes. Dad would always be in front of the stove cooking the chicken. The meal tasted great, but the best part was being together as a family beforehand.

Macaroni and cheese baked in the oven and breaded haddock. Makes me feel like I’m at Gramma’s house. Whenever I make that, I pretend I have my special Grover placemat under my plate. Also Spaghetti-O’s. Of course.