Remember that scene in Elf where Buddy pours an entire bottle of syrup onto his pile of spaghetti? Yeah, the one that made you truly consider drizzling some of your own Aunt Jemima on your pasta just to see how it tasted. That scene is the epitome of the way kids interact with their food: It’s all just one big flavor experiment.
Childhood is defined by our memories, and for me, many of my sweetest memories involve food. As I look back on some of my favorite meals as a kid, I recall one lunch that I always asked my mom to make when we were playing “restaurant” (or as I pronounced it, “west-a-launt”).
It was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips in the middle and a tall glass of mixture milk — chocolate milk plus a swirl of strawberry syrup — to finish it off.
This meal was the best, and it actually still seems like a tasty treat now. The PB&J + chips concoction stars the classic salty-sweet profile, and the drink creation is basically just chocolate-covered-strawberries in liquid form.
I’m sure, though, that this meal might still seem strange to the people who claim that a PB&J sandwich is no place to hide salty, crunchy chips. That’s fine. But what did they eat as kids, then?
I was curious to find out, so I asked some students here at Virginia Tech if they had any interesting childhood food memories of their own, and interesting they certainly are.
We’re all about #HokieRespect, though, so I’ve left the responses anonymous to maintain the students’ culinary dignities. Please enjoy, but just try not to gag.
1. Ketchup or A1 Steak Sauce on noodles
Pasta is like a blank canvas, so topping it with pretty much any sauce has the potential of becoming a culinary masterpiece. I guess this is what Buddy was aiming for with his syrupy spaghetti.
Ketchup is the condiment of our youth. Seriously, for some kids, it nearly seeped from their pores. Even though now it might seem nasty, ketchup on pasta probably tasted great when we were little because the flavors were mild and familiar.
There was also an added bonus with using ketchup over marinara: If you had the really cool (gross) kind, it could turn your meal green or purple. Thanks, Heinz.
On the other hand, some kids were just #A1sinceday1 and preferred a more mature sauce for their pasta. Either that, or their parents made them beef stroganoff for dinner all the time.
These kids are something special considering the steak sauce has some seriously robust savory flavors, but it’s probably just the lingering ketchup taste that attracts the little tots.
If A1 on pasta wasn’t your thing and never will be your thing, try testing out these recipes to use up that bottle of sauce in other unique ways.
BBQ sauce in tuna salad instead of mayo
This is for all those tiny ‘que lovers. The barbecue sauce acts to bind the flaky tuna together like mayonnaise traditionally does, but it also adds another dimension of flavor that plain old mayo cannot.
The appeal here must be that smoky-sweet combo that often pairs well with meat dishes. This recipe claims that BBQ tunafish tastes like pulled pork, and another one bases their tuna melts off barbecue chicken pizza. Sounds innovative, but I’ll let you be the taste tester.
Hot dogs cut up in applesauce
First, if you haven’t seen the Brady Bunch scene where Peter says “pork chops and applesauce” like Casablanca’s Humphrey Bogart, do it now because it is an American classic. I promise you’ll never pronounce the meal the same ever again.
Sadly, though, the idea of pairing pig with apples wasn’t crafted by Carol Brady or her housekeeper Alice. It actually dates back to first century Rome where the sharp acidity of the apples was used to help digest the fattiness of the pork.
I’m not sure if a little kid would’ve been aware of this historical significance, but I can see that based on the two flavors, the sweet earthiness of the apples could work well with the saltiness of the hot dog.
Sweet Gherkin pickles wrapped in bologna
The eccentric brother of the classic “pigs in a blanket.” I’ve never heard of this duo before, but apparently this “Pickle-in-the-Middle” dish is a popular appetizer. I could definitely see little chefs (and grown college kids) making these sweet n’ salty roll-ups on their own after school.
Chocolate chips in grilled cheese
Whoever ate this when they were younger must’ve grown up in a pretty hip household because this unusual sandwich continues to make food news. The perfect embodiment of sweet and savory, this ooey, gooey panini tantalizes taste buds across the board.
Try it the grown-up way with dark chocolate, brie, and raspberries, or find some Kraft Singles and Hershey kisses and make it the old-fashioned way too. You’ve got to honor your inner kid somehow.