One of the first science lessons we learn as children is that food equals fuel. We have to eat to play, but (thanks to the magic of dining!) the right food can also feel like play.
There are many ways we can go about indulging our inner child with food. The most obvious may be eating the dishes that we loved when we were younger—back when we were maybe too afraid to try our now-favorite vegetables and had never tasted anything fancier than an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. Whether it be your grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe or the specific pancakes you can only find at your hometown diner, food has the power to transport us to yesteryear.
The problem? Sometimes our memories taste better than the actual flavor.
Many like to remedy this issue by making “adult” versions of childhood favorites. Grilled cheese with ~fancy~ cheeses. Boozy milkshakes. Truffle mac. Sometimes these things are great, but sometimes they feel like an even further misstep. Unfortunately, nothing beats the thrill of the original—or rather, the thrill of being six years old.
This brings me to my *favorite* way to play with my food: stretching my palate. Trying flavors that might at first remind me of being little but suddenly turn themselves inside out and offer a new, surprising edge. Textures that delight. Bites that make me feel like I’m experiencing something for the first time again. Do you remember your first nectarine? I don’t, but I wish I did.
Here are five recipes that will indulge your inner child—whether through reminiscence, plain fun, or good old-fashioned stickiness. While selected to taste extra special in the summer, please note that this practice can be done year-round. And if all else fails: a cold, juicy piece of watermelon will always do the trick.
When I was little, my claim to fame recipe (a.k.a. the “food” I “invented” and made my parents so sweetly try every day for a month) was fruit soup. To make fruit soup, you cut up fruit and then dump water over it. This fruit salad is a take on fruit soup…but not really. Instead of water, we’re dousing our favorite summer produce in mint simple syrup.
Today, fruit still remains the one thing I reach for when I want to feel like an elementary schooler. Maybe because it’s impossible to eat without juice running down my chin?
My absolute favorite “never grow up” food story: when my sister was tiny, she loved to eat with her hands. One day, my grandma asked her what she planned to do when she was older and got invited on a date, to which she replied, “I’ll order hors d’oeuvres.”
These tiny turkey sandwiches invite you to fully embrace the finger food lifestyle. Have a tea party. Invite your best friends (real or imaginary). Eat tiny sandwiches and listen to Free To Be…You and Me.
Another excellent tea party selection. While cookies are a perfect inner-child food for obvious reasons, these particular treats are simple enough to make you feel like you’re just helping in the kitchen. Light and bright, they also pair perfectly with a nice cup of coffee (heaped with as much sugar as your inner child desires). Bake, then dive back into your worn copy of Madeline while you snack.
I’ve always been a vegetable lover, but I still heard a million jokes about being forced to eat peas in books and T.V. when I was little. So…what’s the best way to get someone to eat their peas? Pair them with pasta, of course.
It seems cacio e pepe has gained notoriety recently—and for good reason. Cheesy, simple, and perfectly indulgent, the rich pasta melds wonderfully with the light, green goodness in this recipe. I was more of a white cheddar Annie’s mac and cheese + peas gal as a child (still now, to be fair!), but if you want to get fancy (you do) this is the way to go.
Tomato soup! Childhood comfort! For this recipe, I recommend delighting yourself with a trip to the farmers’ market to pick out your tomatoes. See the sights, smell the smells, and maybe introduce yourself to a new vegetable or two while you’re at it.
The recipe author, Luise Vindahl of Green Kitchen Stories, notes that while they appreciate sourdough croutons as a topping, their kids like to go with popcorn. We know exactly whose advice to take.
Sophie Vilensky (@sophiavilensky on Instagram and Twitter or if you met her in second grade) is a Real Housewives scholar and naturopath’s daughter. At this point in time these things are very important to her.
BY Sophie Vilensky - July 16, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.