We all remember the foods that defined our childhood: Tater Tots, PB&J snack cakes, Lunchables, Snowballs or—Tommy Pickles’ favorite—fried bologna sandwiches. We grew up eating these high-calorie, less-than-nutritional treats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but what happens to our love for those foods as we get older? Do we hold them in our hearts forever or simply reminisce about them? Are we still eating them—and if so, should we? How can we adapt these foods to fit an adult diet (alcohol added is optional) Or do we distance ourselves from them as fast as possible?
LD writers explored these pressing questions by sharing our favorite childhood foods and newfound adult alternatives.
I will never not have serious love for potatoes and members of the spud’s extended family. Two summers ago I rediscovered tater tots and several accompanying tater tot recipes thanks to Pinterest. Whether baked or fried, these suckers are delicious—especially when paired which cheese (the ultimate embellishment). These days, I add a sophisticated flair to my favorite side dish by baking them with salt and vinegar and cheddar cheese.
I have always had an insane sweet tooth and Dunkaroos were one of the best satisfiers. Perhaps part of the nostalgia is that they are no longer sold in the U.S. (but they are in Canada!) or maybe it reminds me of a simpler time when no one seemed concerned about carbs, preservatives, or processed food. Either way, nothing takes me back to the 1990s like thinking about dipping those cookies deemed “graham crackers” into frosting during lunch.
Slightly healthier, but a nice familiar taste. Pretty easy too!
Kraft Mac & Cheese (Scooby-Doo- or Spongebob-shaped, preferably)
I’ve always been a fan of mac & cheese, although the boxed recipe is different than the homemade kind my mother made. Homemade or not, mac & cheese is an easy meal to throw together and probably the first meal I learned to make for myself as a kid. While living in an on-campus apartment in college, I returned to largely sustaining myself on pastas prepared from boxes and pouches. It wasn’t long before I made the switch from Kraft to Annie’s Mac & Cheese—a brand with flavors and variety beyond Kraft’s standard cheddar cheese. This has become my new standard.
Capri Sun & Kool-Aid Drinks
These were essential beverages of my youth and while I don’t drink them anymore, I have often stared longingly at a box of Capri Suns in a grocery store on my way to the wine or beer aisles. The Capri Sun or Kool-Aid pouches and bottles are too small for my camel-like beverage consumption these days and I still don’t know how to open those Kool-Aid bottles without squirting half the drink all over me, but they’ll always hold a place in my heart. My love for these sugary drinks more than doubled after seeing Twenty One Pilots’ music video for “Stressed Out” in which Josh and Tyler sip Capri Suns on a curb. There’s also a behind-the-scenes video that shows them doing that shot with the Kool-Aid drinks . That’s right, these drinks are still a big deal.
Peanut Butter Captain Crunch
I can not sufficiently express just how much I loved Peanut Butter Captain Crunch as a kid. Thanks to a health-conscious mom, the closest I ever got to sugar-packed cereal on the reg was Raisin Bran. Life at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, however, was a veritable cornucopia of all the snacks I dreamed of while my mom stuffed my lunch box with baby carrots. Peanut Butter Captain Crunch was a staple. Seeing that orange box in the cupboard was like kicking off the best vacation ever—and it still is. Every once in awhile I’ll treat myself to this childhood delight, and I’m pleased to report that it still makes the roof of your mouth burn like a mother and leaves a greasy peanut butter film on your tongue.
Adult version: Peanut butter Captain Crunch Puppy Chow
The brightly flavored ice in a plastic tube was the staple of many kids’ summers growing up and mine were no exception. At the pool, summer camp, or our own backyards, the ice pops were all ripped apart and distributed to us in bulk. There was always a fight for your favorite flavor or color, the ingredients were of the utmost simplicity, and the mess was inevitable. It was the perfect, cheap way to cool off as the summer heat waves combined with humidity. You can still buy Fla-Vor-Ice as an adult, although an alcoholic twist may be preferable to the treats you enjoyed as a kid.
Adult Version: Boozy Ice Pops
When I was younger I thought oatmeal was soggy and gross. And I was mostly right. The only possible way my mother could get me to eat it was by giving me dinosaur oatmeal. What’s better than watching tiny eggs hatch into tiny colorful dinosaurs in your bowl? They transformed ordinary days into adventures and made bland oatmeal into something worth swallowing. Honestly, I still haven’t found anything that quite compares with that magic, which is probably why I still eat dinosaur oatmeal when ordinary cereal won’t cut it.
A traditional bologna bowl involves a piece of bologna on top of a single slice of American cheese on top of a piece of white bread. This bread is then put into a bowl and put in the microwave until the cheese was melted, but not liquidy. I’m pretty sure that I ate one of these masterpieces every day, though I haven’t been able to eat one since age 8 or so. While the same treat has lost its appeal in the more than 10 years since I’ve last tasted it, I’ve discovered a few ways to enhance this American classic with a few more herbs and spices than my mother used way back when.
Adult version: Bologna Bowls With Onion and Parsley
Have any adult versions of your own favorite childhood foods? Tweet us @litdarling!