Life

After-school snacks have a magic that sets them apart from other food

17 recipes that capture the spirit of 'just-for-you' eating and the comfort of coming home.

17 recipes that capture the spirit of 'just-for-you' eating and the comfort of coming home

3 images. Left: Overhead shot of a stack of fresh rotis on aluminum foil, on a light blue surface. A small glass bowl of melted butter sits beside them. middle: A wooden bowl of lentil samosas on a grey table. right: Overhead shot of three large chocolate chip cookies on a lime green plate, on a dark blue and white tile surface.
(Photo, left to right: Dominique Lafond, DL Acken, Suech and Beck)

At the end of an inevitably tumultuous day of high school, my friends and I would fall into a secure routine: heading to someone's home to scrounge for snacks. They weren't anything fancy but they were often something warm, like canned spaghetti that we'd microwave on high so the sauce would create a sticky ring at the edge of the bowl — a welcome texture, actually. Or maybe we'd have scrambled eggs with cheese whisked in. Whatever the dish, we'd eat it while flopped across couches, still in our dishevelled school uniforms. 

My post-elementary-school routine was grounded by an eating ritual too, minus the friends and the scrounging. I'd come home to hot dogs that my mom had cut into cocktail size and sautéed in a signature paste of ketchup, vinegar and cayenne; curried goat rolled in pressed-thin slices of pan-fried toast that oozed with butter; or always-handy Jamaican beef patties pulled from the freezer. 

Often when I think of any one of these foods, the rest come to mind — as if I'm scanning a special menu made up of my beloved after-school snacks. Each was an absolute favourite for the brief period it appeared in my life, because its deliciousness went beyond its taste. These were things I ate when I felt totally ravenous and at a time of day I relished: the demarcation between a public and an intimate world — "coming home" foods. They restored me in more ways than one, which I think is what sets after-school snacks apart from any other food of the day. And so does something else. 

Whether you had fend for yourself or your food was ready and waiting for you, there's a good chance that your after-school snacks were crafted with you and only you in mind. 

For instance, maybe while you changed into house clothes, a caregiver was assembling your special oddball sandwich and most certainly cutting the crusts off. If that was you, you'll recognize a similar spirit in the two recipes below from Joanna Fox's Little Critics cookbook. The headnote of Paul Toussaint's recipe describes memories of clamouring by the stove while his grandmother prepared a favourite dish, while Aman Dosanj's recalls snacks made to fit her hand while she played. They might be geared toward kids, but I'd wish for them as quickly as I'd wish for my mom to make me those spicy hot dogs again.

Or perhaps you raided the fridge every afternoon to make the kind of plate you could only get away with when no one was watching, then ate it peacefully zoned out in front of the TV. Could there be a better case for making extras of flavour-packed food today — say, Ye Misir Sambusa and Chicken Liver Mousse — for a distinctly delicious pairing tomorrow? Or for signing off work before anyone else in your house beats you to the kitchen?

Of course, with the business part of my day ending at 6-ish now, there's not a ton of snack time before dinnertime. And that hour doesn't bring the shift in mood that 4 p.m. used to when I was in school. But I'm still nostalgic for all the items on my "menu," and sometimes eating something similar takes me right back. Perhaps making something like what you ate after school holds magic for you too and can transport you back to that golden hour. Only one way to find out.

You won't need a recipe to recreate your old personal faves, of course, but for inspiration — or if you're now cooking for a lucky little kid — here are some recipes that I can imagine making transformative after-school snacks.

From Little Critics:

Diri Sos Pwa Legim 

Overhead shot of a plate with with rice, black bean sauce and stew on it, on a wooden table. A bit of a silver pot of stew sits in the top right corner. Another plate is in the bottom left corner. A leafy plant sits in the top left corner.
(Photography by Dominique Lafond)

Golu Molu

Overhead shot of a stack of fresh rotis on aluminum foil, on a light blue surface. A small glass bowl of melted butter sits beside them.
(Photography by Dominique Lafond)

Grab-from-the-fridge food:

Chicken Liver Mousse

closeup on chicken liver mousse on a slice of baguette on a wooden cutting board. a silver knife is leaning on the slice, cherry tomatoes and a jar of the mousse are in the background.
(Photography by Peter Chou)

Sweet Potato and Labneh Dip

Overhead shot of orange dip topped with roasted pumpkin seeds in a white bowl. It's sitting on a white marble surface and a platter of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers sit next to it.

Make once, enjoy all week:

A cheesy twist on a classic quiche

Overhead shot of a quiche made with bacon in a glass pie plate. It's sitting on a striped kitchen towel on top of a grey wooden table. A bowl of salad greens sits in the top left corner. Plates and forks sit in the bottom left corner.
(Photo: David Bagosy; Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Ye Misir Sambusa

a wooden bowl of lentil samosas on a grey table.
(Photography by DL Acken)

Make in minutes:

Black Seed Smoothie

Closeup on a brown smoothie in a clear glass. It's sitting on a wooden table in front of a grey background.
(Photography by Elena Mari and Nathan Legiehn)

Kimchi Sandwiches

closeup of a hand holding a kimchi sandwich. the person is wearing a floral sweater and a watch.
(Photography by Jenny Huang)

Hot bites:

Pajeon

An overhead shot of a plate of pajeon on a bright blue background. A small bowl of sauce, a plate of kimchi and another plate of pajeon surround the main plate.
(Photography by Soo Kim)

Kicha Fit Fit

Overhead shot of three white bowls of Kicha Fit Fit (Torn Flatbreads With Spiced Butter And Yogurt) sitting on a brown wooden table.
(Photography by Khadija M. Farah & Jennifer May)

Individual Baked Eggs

Closeup on a child's hands using a spoon to scoop into a baked egg in a white ramekin.
(Credit: Kyla Zanardi)

Sweet things:

Chocolate Cherry Skillet Brownies

Overhead shot of brownies topped with vanilla ice cream and cherries in a cast iron skillet.
(Photography by Adrian Harris and Jeremy Inglett)

Lemon & Berry Chia Yogurt

3 footed glass dishes with chia yogurt pudding in them siting on a blue platter. They're topped with blueberries and blackberries and a sprig of fresh mint.

Flourless Lemon Ricotta Cake with Almonds 

Overhead shot of a cake topped with almond slices and drizzled with white icing. It's sitting on a white marble cutting board on a white table. 2 slices are cut from the cake and one slice is sitting on a white plate next to it.
(Photography by Michael Gozum)

Dark Chocolate and Molasses Cookies

Overhead shot of three large chocolate chip cookies on a lime green plate, on a dark blue and white tile surface.
(Photography by Suech and Beck)

Endlessly customizable:

Chicken Jalfrezi Pita Pockets

Overhead shot of 2 pink plates with stuffed pitas on them. The pitas are cut in half and filled with lettuce, chicken, and pickled onions.
(Photography by Gabriel Cabrera)

An eggy 'breakfast' boat

A loaf of bread that has been scooped out to make a bowl. It's filled with baked eggs, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and topped with feta.
(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yasmin Seneviratne is a producer at CBC Life, an editor and a creative director.

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