No matter our age or where we’re from, we all have cherished childhood foods. And while they likely no longer appear on our plates, just remembering them brings a nostalgic smile!
Growing up in a deeply Southern town, family and church, my childhood food favorites were nothing fancy but oh, how we loved them. Recently I made a list of some I remember, and it was funny to think about what we ate years ago. Some of the items carry on to this day, but many do not. Those are the ones that really make you laugh!
The Southern dishes of meats (fried chicken, meatloaf, chicken fried steak, country/salty ham), and vegetables (mashed potatoes, butterbeans, creamed corn, turnip greens) remain popular today. While these were a large part of my childhood, here are some other Southern favorites that haven’t all necessarily stood the test of time!
- Frozen fish sticks baked in the oven.
- Sloppy Joes on a toasted hamburger bun. I always wondered, who was Joe?
- Campbell Soup Company’s famous recipe for green bean casserole topped with crispy fried onions. Okay, yes, this one remains hugely popular.
- Rice Krispie Treats.
- Tater Tots. Recently I saw these on a restaurant menu, but with the pared-down name of (just) “Tots.” I didn’t appreciate this modern edit.
- Molded jello with fruit pieces inside. If you’re not of a certain age range, this one will escape you. Let it.
- Homemade biscuits split open and soaked in syrup. Ah, those were the days.
- Sweet potato pie.
- Fried catfish and homemade hush puppies. The large hush puppies would be cut in half, and the middles scooped out so handpicked catfish – minus the bones – could be placed inside. Our parents and grandparents used to do these non-stop at the dinner table until the children were eating them faster than the production. Around this time, we received a lesson on how to stuff hush puppies with catfish.
- Fried mullet, cheese grits, and sweet tea with lemon. Repeat. Repeat.
- Divinity fudge. My cheeks hurt just thinking of this super-sweet, crowd favorite.
- Pimento cheese. I never understood the appeal.
- Chess pie. Be still my heart! I haven’t had this in many years.
- Vidalia Onion sandwiches of bread, mayonnaise, and thin slices of the onion.
- One of my brother’s variation on the Vidalia Onion sandwich. We called it a devil’s sandwich, and it was two slices of bread filled with ketchup. Yep, that’s all. (This is not to be confused with the South’s beloved deviled eggs.)
- Chicken and homemade dumplings dropped by the spoonful into the simmering pot to cook.
- Oreos in the refrigerator reaching Arctic temperatures before eating them.
- Hand-churned peach ice cream in the backyard. This STILL would make my top five favorite foods!
- Boiled peanuts. Best eaten outdoors by the barn.
- Crinkle-cut French fries.
- Shoney’s Restaurant strawberry pie. An iconic favorite.
- Giblet gravy. I really don’t like thinking about what constitutes a giblet. You can look it up on your own…
- Coconut popsicles in the summer.
- Collard greens with cornbread cooked in a cast-iron pan.
- Spaghetti with meat sauce (not meatballs). My brothers and I went through a phase where the white spaghetti could not touch the red sauce on the plate. Mother quickly tired of this and we learned to eat it the normal way.
- Coke float. I read somewhere it also was called a “Basic Black Cow,” but I never heard that as a kid. And for those who don’t know about this treat, it’s vanilla ice cream with Coca Cola poured over it. This may not sound healthy. It is not! This may sound good. It is!
- Coke bottle peanuts. I hope at least one blog reader from the South will remember this! You took an icy-cold GLASS bottle of Coca Cola, and poured a bag of salted peanuts into it, shook it up, and then drank/ate it. Sure, it sounds odd. But if you didn’t have this in your childhood, I truly am sorry.
- Tacos with the proverbial “station” of toppings of your choosing to go on the meat in a hard taco shell. Actually, I don’t think I knew of a soft taco shell until I went away to college!
My Southern small town unfortunately didn’t have Italian or Mexican food restaurants and the aforementioned spaghetti and tacos we ate were about as garden-variety, American-modified as you could imagine. I remember all the taco parts came in a boxed kit from the grocery store, with little packets for seasoning the hamburger meat, and for the so-not-spicy sauce.
Regardless, they were exotic foods to us, and we loved eating them when they came up in the meals rotation at home!
I thought it would be fun to re-create (and of course photograph) one of these “exotic” dishes from my childhood, and decided on the hard shell tacos with the toppings station.
Back then, the hard shells would be lined up on tinfoil-covered sheet pans and baked in the oven. And when you piled on the warm taco meat and the toppings, the goal of course was to not break the shell, at least until you started eating it with your head cocked and turned to the side to avoid the inevitable sauce dripping down your face. Good times!
In this modern-day re-creation, I stayed true to form with one exception – torn cilantro was added just before I ate some of the tacos – and I really don’t have an excuse for this other than my adult self loves cilantro on (true) Mexican dishes!
Honestly, my tacos re-creation tasted exactly as I remember them from my childhood! I’ve certainly had more authentic tacos since then, but there’s something special about our cherished childhood food memories from times long ago.
For those who remember and celebrate the hard-shell taco and toppings station, here are some (nostalgic) photos of my childhood re-creation. Enjoy!
What are some of your cherished childhood favorite foods? Have you re-created them as an adult? Please comment below!