There are foods we eat only out of sheer nostalgia. Foods that, like cigarettes, probably take a sliver of your life away every time you consume them. But really? Totally worth it.
Not only because they taste (for the most part) like what you remember from childhood, but because eating them again is like crawling under the afghan that your parents kept on that old couch you haven't seen (or sat on) for years. It's like time travel, yummy-style.
This is by no means a definitive list, since the number of dishes best served young is wide and varied -- but still, there are some delicacies that seem universal to generations X, Y, and Z. Or at least should be.
10. Banquet Pot Pies
Not all pot pies, mind you--the Banquet versions, the ones in the tiny little tins with the sauced-up mixed vegetables that taste like a lunchroom floor. Oh, but what a tasty lunchroom floor ... mushy peas, and in a pastry shell with burnededges. Completely edible, utterly comfortable, and a clear invitation to unfold a tray and eat dinner in front of the TV. 9. Any Sugary Cereal
Cookie Crisp: It's what's for breakfast.
A wide category, to be sure -- but really, aside from remembering sugar-fueled cartoon Saturdays, is there really all that much reason to still eat this stuff now and then? You use Splendain your coffee, and you buy sugarless gum, and then you eat Corn Pops? It makes no sense, really...unless maybe, just maybe, you use Splenda and choose sugarless gum in order to eat Corn Pops, Cookie Crisp or Crunchberries. In which case, well done. Well done.
8. Little Caesar's Pizza
Why was Little Caesar's popular when you were a kid? Because your parents' got two pizzas for the price of one, and were willing to sacrifice the roof of your mouth to Little Caesar's razor-like cornmeal dust in order to save some cash. This dynamic of sacrifice still holds true in adulthood -- only it's you saving the $10 now, moneybags.
7. Le Sueur Peas Sweet, sweet Le Sueur Peas; they're almost like not eating peas. No, that's not their brand slogan, but for kids, it probably should be. Wet and delicate and mushy--this is vegetable candy. As an adult, you love them for the same reason, really--that is, if you can put it out of your mind that "la sueur" is French for sweat. Which ruins it all. 6. Tater Tots
There's no denying that these are just plain yummy. But really, "tot" is right there in the name. They're like little puffs of hash brown heaven, made for kids who haven't yet mastered the French fry. Sort of sad, really. But fry up a five-pound bag of them for a party sometime and there'll be none left, guaranteed. 5. Kraft Mac & Cheese
Granted, this stuff just tastes good, but so did baby food, and you don't see many of us still eating that with a tiny spoon. No, the reason that boxed Mac & Cheese still gets made is that your Mom used to make it, and it was probably the first thing you learned to cook in college, to boot.
The best thing about making boxed Mac & Cheese as an adult? There's no one to keep you from licking the orange powder residue out of the packet. Booyah, mom! We're also running with scissors and eating raw cookie dough. (Don't feel like a complete failure, though--we are wearing clean underpants. Well, most of us.)
4. Dinty Moore Beef Stew
Smooth cubes of potato, soft disks of carrot, wilted slivers of celery, unspecific gravy, and something approaching meat: that's DintyMoore, baby. And yeah, I don't care what that meat is really made of. I've eaten it before, and I'll eat it again. Gimme some.
Granted, the word "man" is explicit in the title of this long-standing sloppy-joe sauce--but that's more an ad-campaign come-on in order for them to be able to say "Make it a Manwich night" without any irony or sexual overtones whatsoever. Ironically it's that same irony/urban dictionary reference that makes this still a valid dinnertime selection in adulthood.
We know that these are awful. They're deep fried processed globs of questionable chicken meat--and really, we all realize that even assuming that it's chicken is an act of faith alone.
And the dipping sauces? Well, there's sugary BBQ, sugary Sweet & Sour, or you could just give up pretending that it's not supposed to be sweet and just go with Honey. But damned if we don't buy these at least once a year, just because they "sound good." And really, they don't "sound good." Sometimes, adults are just sad, and they need a meal that at least gets close to Happy. McNuggets are the closest that adults can get.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
1. Campbell's Alphabet Soup
Yes, there are better soups out there, but nothing really comes close to the warmth of a bowl of Campbell's. You can somehow taste the red and white label, and it tastes like kindergarten. And you can spell stuff too--the only difference is that as you get older, the stuff you spell out gets increasingly profane. Mm, mm, good, indeed.