Too Many Cooks: What Snacks Remind You of Home?

August 17, 2015

We're the kind of people who have to eat every three hours, and Pure Leaf Iced Tea is here to help with that. This week, it's a special appearance from the staff at FOOD52 with Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more. 

Today: Home is where our hearts—and the snacks—are.

Fried Toast

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Going home means a lot of things: 3 PM glasses of wine, boxing out your parents for the last of the cheese ball (maybe that's just the Midwest), definitely not shuddering at your fifth grade hairstyle, and reverting back to your old habits around snack time. It's also a good reminder of why you sometimes get those sentimental stomach pangs when you see chocolate turtles. So, we asked the team:

What reminds you of home, in food form? 

Caroline Lange: I found this granola recipe in my first few months of college and have been making it (and riffing on it) every two weeks or so since then. The granola—always some combination of oats, coconut, almonds, and whatever else I have in my pantry—has been the most constant recipe in my arsenal since. It never lasts long and is always familiar hit—a good gift, a good breakfast, a good snack, and at this point, very much my own.


Lauren Locke: I lived on popcorn. Most every day before or after sports, I made a big batch. Usually just with butter, but sometimes with vinegar because I was trying to recreate my beloved Canadian salt and vinegar chips before they became such a ubiquitous flavor. 

Liz Andrew: My parents kept my brother and I on a pretty strict no artificial sweets situation when we were kids—but I specifically remember my father sneaking Little Debbie nutty bars (you know, those chocolatey wafers that come in a pack of two) into the house for his not-so-secret chocolate addiction. I remember in the summer my brother and I would always steal a pack (or two) for ourselves and eat them outside while the chocolate melted.

Amanda Hesser: Oyster crackers with horseradish—my dad's signature snack, ideally while watching football.

Olivia Bloom: You guys are making me hungry. Hopping on the popcorn bandwagon, my family were extremely late adopters to the microwave, so when we finally got one, we became microwaved popcorn obsessives. Nary a night would pass without sharing a steaming, hot bag of buttery goodness. I am a popcorn devotee to this day, although now I make it on the stovetop.

Micki Balder: Me too, Olivia. Movie nights (or really, nights in general) always involved my mom popping a huge batch of popcorn on the stove, after which we grated a mound of Parmesan on top and divvied it up so everyone could have their own bowl. Taking a big kernel and scooping up the leftover salty cheese sitting at the bottom of the bowl was always the best part.

More: Like your popcorn covered in Nutella and dusted with confectioner's sugar? We do too. 

Macaroni Peas

Michael Hoffman: Wheat Thins with cheddar and alfalfa sprouts. Annie's Shells and Cheese with frozen peas (yes, that was a "snack" in high school).

Catherine O'Donnell: Go-gurt and sweet and salty bars were my family go-tos. I also remember eating Demet's chocolate turtles with my mom after swim practice.

Hannah Wilken: Burnt toast! My dad used to make a "special" toast where he would use our toaster oven to burn the bread, almost charred, and then load it with butter and salt. My mom hated it but my brother and I were OBSESSED with it. Who wouldn't be?


Lindsay-Jean Hard: As background, my childhood lunches involved yogurts, baby carrots, and rice cakes, and I wasn't introduced to the joys of candy until my mom met my stepdad—so snacks at home were always relatively austere. (Wheat Thins for me too, Michael!) But, when my mom was feeling especially flush, she would treat us to Little Debbie Donuts Sticks; we'd freeze them and eat them straight out of the icebox. 

More: Donuts don't get much better than this

Jackie Stauffer: I really enjoyed Fridays when my mom went to the store and stocked up for the weekend—she usually brought home chips and salsa. I enjoy snacks tremendously, and second Lauren's (and Olivia's and Micki's) popcorn. Though now I finally make my own on the stove, I was a die-hard popcorn fan for years!

Oh wait, one more, RAMEN! From the orange package! So much ramen I'm probably good on sodium content for a few more decades...

Leslie Stephens: Squishy sandwiches (recipe available upon request) turned into mac n' cheese cooked directly in a hot water boiler (college), which turned into the year I lived off of digestive cookies dipped in creamed honey dipped in tea, which became [insert food here] leftover from the eds shoot, cold from the fridge (but just as delicious!).


Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm: Microwave nachos. My family had the technique down: a layer of tortilla chips, shredded cheddar, another layer of chips, and more cheese. The crispy, just-shy-of-burnt cheese edges were the best part. And they still are—except, now, the nachos get their melt on in the oven. 

More: Want to snack like you're traveling abroad? Here are some options.

Hillary Pollak: Growing up, I was not into vegetables. My mom gave me fruit instead, which launched my fruit addiction (thanks, Mom!).  I ate a lot of fruit after school and camp, but my favorite was always cherries chilled in a bowl of ice, eaten while lying in a hammock. I can still eat over a pound of cherries in one sitting, so please keep your cherries in a safe place.  

In case you're concerned I was too healthy, I also ate my share of Hostess cupcakes and honey buns.

Karl Rosaen: Red grapes, cut into neat little bunches, ready to grab from the fridge.


Sarah Jampel: My after-school snacks consisted of sawed-off chunks of cookie dough logs, handfuls of chocolate chips, and white rice with cheddar cheese melted on top...and I still turned out okay, right?!!? 

Lauren Locke: Love little bowls of Nestle Toll House chips, Sarah.

Micki Balder: Yes, chocolate chips! My mom used to get so annoyed with me for snacking on them when she'd bought them to make cookies or something. Sorry mom, I get it now...

Lauren Kelley: I had terrible snacking habits as a child, mostly because we didn't have many snacks in the house. To make up for it, I devised horrible ones such as: melted cheddar cheese in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt (just make sure to pour the excess grease out), rice crackers + american cheese (I recommend making at least three because one isn't enough), and uncooked ramen crunched up in a ziploc with the flavor on it. Please don't let my mom read this. (Mom, I only ate carrot sticks—I promise.)

Also, was I the only one who sometimes put black olives on carrot sticks and pretended those were fingers? 

When my parents hosted dinner parties, the snacks I'd steal were iso peanuts and arare—Japanese rice cracker snacks. When I was a little older, a favorite snack was Hurricane Popcorn, which is microwave popcorn coated with furikake and tossed with rice crackers for crunch. 

Jane Whalen: Without fail, I'm always hungry at 11:30 AM no matter what I had for breakfast and when I ate it. It's definitely hereditary because my mom is the same way (that's how science works, right?).  Her go-to in this moment of weakness is Laughing Cow cheese + Kavli Crispbread (how to eat a bagel and cream cheese without eating a bagel and cream cheese) but I usually just cave and eat lunch awkwardly early. Send help, send snacks. 

Fifth photo by Lara; all others by James Ransom

What memorable childhood snacks would you still seek out? Tell us in the comments below!

This post is brought to you by Pure Leaf Iced Tea.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • jecca
  • nycnomad
  • Sarah
  • Ted
  • henandchicks
I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


jecca August 20, 2015
I definitely did the uncooked ramen thing! But my usual evening snack in high school was soup made with vegetable bouillon, pasta shells, carrots, scallions and an egg. When I have it now I instantly think of Dawson's Creek.
nycnomad August 20, 2015
My mom used to make cheesy biscuits from left over short crust when she was making a quiche or a pie. She would grate cheddar cheese and fold it into the dough, grate a little more on the tops and bake them into light flaky buttery cheesy rounds of wonderful! I haven't had them in 30 years but they were wonderful!
Sarah August 18, 2015
Cheez-its and Kraft pineapple spread!! I almost never buy cheez-its anymore because I could probably wolf down an entire box in 20 minutes. Oatmeal cream pies! McVities Digestives (British mum). Chips and El Fenix salsa, if lucky, queso (I am from Dallas).
Ted August 18, 2015
I think it would be wonderful if Antonia would share the recipe for Frosty Pineapple Squares. :-)
henandchicks August 17, 2015
Growing up, Friday was chicken or some other "oven thing", always with Publix challah and margarine (not out of dietary restrictions in our home, but because this was what my mother grew up with in my grandmother's home). Last summer my little shop had the opportunity to cook for a visiting film crew for a month or so, one member is vegan. One Friday I tried some of the Vegan Beat margarine spread we had for her on some of our challah, and was transported. The sort-of-buttery spread on eggy challah (for me, not for Vegan Film Girl) was just as it always was, the challah even as good as Publix- an accomplishment for a Florida girl.
AntoniaJames August 17, 2015
For salty: Saltines (!) with chunky peanut butter (Skippy!), or Triscuits with neatly cut squares of cheese exactly the size of the cracker.

For sweet, whatever I or one of my sisters, or occasionally my mother (who worked full time) had baked: brownies, cookies of all kinds, layer cakes thickly frosted with icing, and my absolute favorite, "Frosty Pineapple Squares," which is like a slab pie with a yeasted crust with a thick custardy filling made with crushed pineapple, and glazed. It was the first yeast dough with which I ever worked, at about age 12 or 13, starting a life-long love affair with doughs of all kind. (I still have the recipe for frosty pineapple squares.) ;o)
Ted August 19, 2015
I think it would be wonderful if Antonia would share the recipe for Frosty Pineapple Squares. :-)
Kristina A. August 17, 2015
My childhood after-school fatty snack was toasted Apple Crisp Pop Tarts. (Not sure what the real name was but it was apple/cinnamon filling.) I would toast 2 and then cut them into 4 strips so that I could dip them in milk. (I am still a little OCD.) A go-to meal my Mom would make was Mac 'N Cheese with tuna. She'd boil some frozen mixed veg with the pasta, drain and mix with the cheese and a can of tuna. Sounds pretty meh but I still crave it every so often...
Bella B. August 17, 2015
My family loves baked goods and there is one thing that reminds me of home more than anything. It is a cake that my Nonna Maria always made. It is amazing. I have posted the recipe here if you want to try it.

xoxoBella |