Too Many Cooks: What was Your Childhood Guilty Pleasure?

June 29, 2012

You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

With their still-developing tastebuds, kids love the strangest snacks. The FOOD52 staff was no exception -- today, we answered the question What was your childhood guilty pleasure?

Some of them are outright strange, but none are so weird that we aren't secretly planning a kid-themed snacktime for ourselves. Meet you after school with a bag of uncooked pasta, a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich, and Chex with butter!

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A couple of things:

1. I used to eat dry elbow macaroni, and would chew it until the tiny bits would hold a shape, and then I'd tuck it in my cheek, like a chipmunk, for far too long.
2. White American cheese on white bread, "cooked" in the microwave until the cheese melted into brown chewy plastic on the edges.
3. Oyster crackers with butter and horseradish, and a sip of my dad's beer when he wasn't looking.

Whenever we were away on a family vacation, we always picked up a canister of Planter's Cheese Balls -- which we somehow managed to convince ourselves were a classier version of Cheez Doodles. We never had them at home, which made those little neon orange balls of puffed corn all the more exciting.

I used to make a basic graham cracker crust with graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar but just eat it with a spoon instead of actually making a crust with it. It was like a more delicious, crazier version of just having a graham cracker.

Jennifer S. (AKA Jenny)
For an entire year of high school I ate nothing but a large bag of barbecue potato chips and chocolate milk for lunch.

Mine is a cookies & cream/Sprite ice cream float, and last weekend I ordered one because it's still awesome.

Any flavor of potato chips -- especially Lay's wavy au gratin flavor.

Mine was PB&J. I'd eat more sandwiches (crusts on, thank you very much) than should be legal for children under 12.

Each year, for my birthday, I got to choose one box of sugary cereal. I usually went for Cookie Crisp, Reeses Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, or Razzle Dazzle Rice Krispies (which are no longer in circulation, most unfortunately).

It was all over after I learned how to make banana's foster in the microwave!

Peter S.:
Growing up as a kid in the '70s, my Mom was ahead of her time in terms of groceries... Only homemade cookies. No soda. Potato chips? Ha! Only granola or Familia or muselix (the real stuff, not the box from Kellogg's.) So when we'd go on vacation as a treat I'd get to choose any one box of totally junky crap cereal for myself and I didn't even have to share! I'd invariably end up with the sickly sweet rainbow delight known as Fruity Pebbles. To this day? I still buy a box every 6 months or so.

But Chex played a role in my childhood as well. I would, on occasion, sit at my neighbor's kitchen table with three items: a cereal bowl of Chex -- sans milk, a cold stick of salted butter, and a tableware knife. Pick up the knife, slice off a slightly-thicker-than-paper-thin slice of butter, stick the butter slice -- still adhering to the blade of the knife -- into the bowl and remove the blade with 1 or 2 (are there 3? Jackpot!) Chex stuck to the butter.

Next? I'd put the knife in your mouth and slide the Chex and butter off with my teeth, savor the salty butter-sweet crunch and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Until the bowl was empty and I'd eaten roughly a 3rd of a stick of butter. I have to say, writing this makes me want to pick up a box of Chex.

I loved coconut macaroons and carrot cake. Still do, actually. Oh, and my grandmother's croustis, clumps of chocolate covered corn flakes of which she made boxes and boxes. 

Mine was the weirdest: peanut butter and dill pickle slices on crackers... Sounds disgusting but I thought it was a delicious combination.

Mine was my 4 o'clock snack: bread and butter with a square of dark chocolate on the side. (Super French!)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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patricellen July 2, 2012
I can't believe that no one else was a closet Kraft Mac n Cheese junkie. When my parents were out or whenever I had a chance, I would make up a box and eat the entire thing myself. But I had to let is sit in the pan until it got slightly cooled and thickened. Perfect. I swear there were times when I considered making a second box, I was that hooked. Confession... I still love the stuff, but don't make it for myself. I keep a box of Annie's or Trader Joe's on hand and if the grandkids ask for it, I always leave a bit in the pot so I can indulge that childhood fantasy. Sigh.
Karen M. July 2, 2012
I ate almost nothing but Kraft Macaroni and cheese until I was about 15; I still love it but reserve it for the times when there are no witnesses.
SaucyRedhead July 2, 2012
In elementary school I loved Spaghettio's, Jell-o powder, and raw cookie dough. In high school, I too, loved the BBQ Potato Chips with Chocolate Milk. In college, it was Tab and m&m's. I think I would still re-visit the chips and milk...sweet and salt, sweet and salt....
Regine July 1, 2012
Cornflakes crumbled with condensed milk.
ValerieB July 1, 2012
Sandwiches: Dill pickles and mustard, pimento cheese, or peanut butter and banana. Ha! Just realized why I love the new Ben & Jerry's Greek Frozen Yogurt flavor of peanut butter/banana.
cmcdonn July 1, 2012
Peanut butter and bacon on Pepperidge Farm bread . . . And Miracle Whip. (I'm so ashamed . . .)
MnCampCook July 1, 2012
Circus peanuts - those weird peanut shaped candies with the texture of extremely stale marshmallows, unnatural orange color and faint banana flavor. I found them positively addictive.
fineartdaily July 1, 2012
Those were the best! My mother introduced me to them which meant that she would bring them home sometimes, and she wasn't too vigilent about her stash... Yum.
TheFatWitch July 1, 2012
I was (and still am) a vinegar freak. We used to buy Gardetto's Mustard Pretzels and I LOVED them. However, I've always been irked by foods that get stuck in my teeth, so instead of actually eating the pretzels, I'd suck on them (thus getting all the juicy mustard-iness out of them) and put them back into the bag. My mom would be disgusted when she'd go to eat one and it would be soggy with saliva. I did the same with Salt & Vinegar Pringles. I was also known to eat mustard out of a bowl with a spoon. To this day, I eat mustard on nearly everything (including--gasp!--steak).
zora July 1, 2012
Pistachio nuts, which were dyed red in those days.
Chocolate covered honeycomb, called "seafoam," sold in irregular sized chunks at the little candy store across from school. Choice of dark or milk. Dark only please. Always disliked milk chocolate, even as a kid.
Cinnamon toothpicks--regular wooden toothpicks soaked in cinnamon extract. These were addictive as cigarettes. Also sold at the candy store.

At home: Fritos and sour cream, usually accompanied by 7-Up or Dad's Old Fashioned root beer.
jlm July 1, 2012
Fluffernutters, I still treat myself now and then. And Chicken Delight was a big treat for us too. And on New Year's day morning, Fritos and clam dip. We usually had a proper breakfast, but on New Year's day it was just a day long grazing of all the leftovers from the party the night before. As I got older and wiser, I would actually hide some to make sure there would be some left.
fineartdaily July 1, 2012
I would put potato chips in my Pepperidge Farm white bread peanut butter sandwiches. Great texture and crunch! When my parents went for a rare evening, and we had a baby sitter, we were allowed the biggest treat: Chicken Delight. It was a friend chicken dinner that was delivered to the house. This was suburban Connecticut, back in the 60s, way before pizza deliveries so it was very exotic and extravagant. Plus - there was a warm blueberry muffin included with each dinner. Genius!
Christina @. July 1, 2012
When my mother wasn't in the kitchen, I'd take a marshmallow and make an indentation in the top, and stuff it with 2 or 3 chocolate chips, and sometimes also some shredded coconut. Then I'd put it straight on the microwave plate and nuke it for a few seconds! I loved watching the marshmallow expand to about 4 times in size, then I'd turn it off and eat the gooey delicousness! The chocolate had melted and marshmallow softened, and the coconut just took it to the nth degree! My mother would have killed me if she knew I was doing this in the microwave! ;)
judiu July 1, 2012
Saltine brand crackers with Hershey 's chocolate syrup. Sweet, salty yum ! Also, Mom's hot black coffee spooned over chocolate ice cream.
Lucia F. July 1, 2012
Buggles were number one. And I just saw them in the vending machine at work!
don515 July 1, 2012
O & C onions right out of the can!
amysarah June 30, 2012
Oscar Meyer bologna figured big - fried in a sandwich on Pepperidge Farm white toast with French's yellow mustard. Also, cold slices spread with Temp-Tee whipped cream cheese and rolled up like a Yodel. I would eat one right now if I had the ingredients.

Also in college, the hot chocolate at White Castle, especially late at night. It was super ersatz chocolate-y and had a weird syrupy texture (and was made of god knows what) - but it was somehow oddly satisfying and delicious and cost like 25 cents.
AntoniaJames June 30, 2012
I was completely deprived of all junk food as a child, and lived out in the country so i couldn't buy any for myself (if I'd had the money, that is). Anyway, when I went to music camp I spent all of my (limited) pocket money on Planters' Peanut Bars, which I lived on for the entire two weeks, drinking Fresca from the all-you-could-drink soda dispensing machines in the dining room. I was in heaven! ;o)
Sam1148 July 1, 2012
I bought fresca last week...They changed the formula to use a super ultra sweet sweetener.
Not the same at all--it used to be just lightly sweetend...and crisp. Now, it's ultra sweet.

I understand there's a Fanta Grapefruit drink in mexican markets that's more like the original.
TXExpatInBKK July 1, 2012
Oh no! Why would they change the Fresca formula??! I'm with you Sam, the great thing about it was that it was only slightly sweet.
43sox June 30, 2012
A tablespoon of marshmallow fluff, eaten straight, before breakfast.
Sesame breadsticks dipped in red wine vinegar.
Slices of microwaved-until-dessicated hebrew national salami-- which I guess was like beef jerky. Air-popped popcorn with soy sauce. Spaghetti with ketchup and margarine. Raw meatballs, stolen while my mom was making dinner. Canfields chocolate soda.
How did I make it to adulthood?
boulangere June 30, 2012
In the early 60s, a trip to MacDonald's on a Friday night was a huge treat. A burger, fries, and a strawberry shake were as good as it gets.
pierino June 30, 2012
The bubblegum that came with Topps baseball cards. Anyone remember Flavor Straws? They had either a chocolate or strawberry filament inside that was supposed to flavor your milk.