When most of us look back at our childhoods, some of the most vivid memories come from the food we ate. Be it horrible rice pudding from the school canteen, or a delicious dessert kept locked away in our mom’s treat cupboard, food plays an integral part of our childhood memories.
However, have you ever stopped to question how experiences of childhood treats differ around the world? The following list is a collection of childhood memories from around the globe, proving how kids’ love of stuffing their faces transcends cultures and locations.
Poland – Vibovit vitamin powder
Vibovit was a favourite among Polish children in the early ‘90s – a time when there wasn’t a wide variety of treats available in the country, compared to western Europe. Today, it can be found in nine countries across Europe in different flavours, such as strawberry and orange.
Maciej recalls:“Vibovit is basically vitamins for children in the form of vanilla powder. It was meant to be dissolved in water but most kids would stick their tongues inside the packets to lick off the dry powder. I, too, was guilty of that!”
Russia – Glazed curd
Glazed curd has been produced in Russia since the 1930s but there only used to be two variants of it in the days of the Soviet Union – vanilla and chocolate. Today, around 40 types of glazed curd exist in the market.
Daria explains:“I have always been a cheese lover, and the glazed curd I ate as a child was the very beginning of this passion. This sweet treat is made of curd, sugar, butter and vanilla and is glazed with chocolate. It is mostly kept in the fridge and is quite tiny, yet nutrient-rich.
“I remember always asking my mum for it on our way home from kindergarten. Small kiosks with milk-products were everywhere in St Petersburg, so it wasn’t hard to get a piece. It also wasn’t hard to persuade my mum, since this treat is healthy too!”
Morocco – Henry’s biscuits
The packaging of the Henry’s biscuits actually show an image of a teapot, a cup and a biscuit so it indicates that you have to soak your biscuit in the tea to eat it properly. As most Moroccan children eat their biscuits this way, it is widely debated which came first: The packaging or the way people eat it. Either way there seems to be a simple rule: Tea and Henry’s go hand in hand.
Abdellah explains: “As a ’90s kid, one of the best things that you could eat during that meal is a specific brand of biscuit called Henry’s with a cup of Moroccan mint tea. I really liked to put one half of a biscuit in the tea until it became soft and then eat it. A lot of kids eat their biscuit this way until the cup of tea becomes a mix of tea and biscuit. I will always eat Henry’s and remember those simple pleasures we had as kids.”
Kenya – Sugar cane
Sugarcane is a type of grass that is, as you probably guessed it, crucial for the production of sugar. By peeling it, you can eat the innards and the taste is addictively sweet. However, sugarcane can also be used produce other things than sugar. In some regions, sugarcane is also used for to make pens, mats and screens. Useful and edible all at once!
Beryle said: “Although I grew up in Denmark, my family is originally from Kenya. Whenever my mom went back to visit, she would bring me my favourite snack: sugarcane. I used to love seeing her peel them for me, but one day she was busy, so I decided to take matters in my own hands. Bad idea! I ended up in the hospital with a permanently scarred hand after I, in my eagerness, jammed the knife down through my the knuckle on my index finger. Ouch.”
Philippines – Halo-halo
If you’re a fan of the reality TV series Top Chef, you might remember seeing halo-halo featured in one of its episodes as a Quickfire Challenge dish. Its claim to international fame doesn’t end there. Even celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had high praise for the dessert, once posting a photo of it on Twitter and calling it “oddly beautiful”.
Francis says: “Growing up in the Philippines, I loved halo-halo which consists of local fruits, beans and other sweets, topped with crushed ice and condensed milk. The drink would always cool us down on a typical hot and humid day. My siblings and I were always thrilled to see our parents returning from the supermarket with familiar halo-halo ingredients in their shopping bags.
We only had it when my family hosted parties or to celebrate occasions, which made the drink extra special. It’s rare to find halo-halo outside of the Philippines so I never miss out on the opportunity to have one when I do!”
Slovakia – Granko chocolate drink
Granko was created in 1979 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and continues to be extremely popular in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Owning its signature white cup with red dots is a must! If you don’t fancy a cup of hot chocolate, you can also enjoy Granko’s delicious taste in cereal and syrup forms.
Barbora says: “Granko is simply the best chocolate drink in the world! We’ve had it at home for as long as I can remember and I still drink it whenever I pay my family a visit. Now that I live in Germany where no Granko can be found, I always try to take a box of it back with me to enjoy.”
Caramel Treat / South Africa
Caramel treat is an essential ingredient for many traditional South African desserts, such as Peppermint Crisp Tart, which was a hit among kids, and trifle, which is served at Christmas. It is comparable to dulce de leche, a popular confection in Latin America, made from heated sweetened milk.
Christine explains: “Caramel Treat is actually a baking ingredient that comes in a tin and isn’t really meant to be eaten straight. But since my primary school friend and I didn’t get pocket money to buy sweets, we would steal it from her mum’s baking supplies. We would then secretly climb up onto the roof of their house and eat it with teaspoons, until our throats stung so much from the sweetness that we had to climb back down for water.
“We did this all through high school and whenever I see this friend today, we would still buy a tin of Caramel Treat to sentimentally enjoy together. It is much too sweet for us now, however, and we can’t imagine how we were able to polish off a whole tin!”
Malaysia – Roti Aiskrim (Ice Cream Sandwich)
A motorcycle ice cream man is a man who drives around on a motorcycle with a big bell in his hand. He rings it loudly to signal to children that “Ice creams are here!”. Attached to his motorcycle is a massive tin that stores the ice cream. Strangely enough, the tin manages to keep the ice cream well even in the tropical climate.
Johana explains: “It was not love at first sight. I’d always wondered what was so amazing about having scoops of ice cream served between a bun. One weekend, however, my family and I took a day trip to a waterfall and up drove a ‘motorcycle ice cream man’. After years of skepticism about this snack, I finally gave it a go. Turns out I’d been wrong about it all this while! Under the hot Malaysian sun, melted ice cream on a soggy bun brought a much-needed respite. Since then, I’ve made up for my years of ignorance by having it every time a ‘motorcycle ice cream man’ passes by.”
Taiwan – Egg cakes
Wander the night markets of Taiwan and you’ll find yourself drawn to the fragrance of these animal- or egg-shaped waffles wafting in the air. With eggs, flour and sugar as its main ingredients, they contain no meat by-products and are therefore vegetarian-friendly. You can choose to have them with chocolate or peanut fillings, though most locals believe that the plain ones are best.
Veela says: “My family and I used to live right across the street from a small vegetable market, which had a street food stall which sold egg cakes. As a three year old, this treat was one of the first food experiences outside of home that I had. More than its taste, it was the process of making egg cakes that got me excited to visit the market with mum. I really enjoyed watching it all – from melting the butter on a hot iron skillet to the formation of a dark, crispy crust on what had simply been cake batter a few minutes ago.”
It would appear that children’s treats from around the world all generally revolve around one thing: sugar. From Kenya’s pure sugar cane snack to Malaysia’s ice cream roll, there’s no denying that kids love the sweet stuff.