The poor latchkey kid. The lucky latchkey kid! Arriving home from school to an empty house has its range of emotions (fear, boredom, freedom, Super Nintendo!). The term takes its origin from a World War II-era documentary that profiled children heading home from the local elementary with the house key literally hanging around their neck. Over time, as the workweek has expanded, the practice has grown in popularity. Also evolving over time: Latchkey Kid Food, which is remembered (and recreated) on the funny new recipe website Latch Kitchen.
What is Latchkey Kid Food, exactly? You can think of it as if a very hungry 9-year-old were given a key to their kitchen and asked to make a meal. This is, basically, a meal of whatever they felt like, with a side of zero supervision. This means bell peppers, Dr. Pepper and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or frozen chicken nuggets, American cheese and ketchup. Milk and sugar? Totally acceptable. Cheerios and Cool Whip? Bon appétit, latchkey kid.
According to a memory posted on the website by Woody Fu (of chicken nuggets fame), as the snack was being heated in the toaster oven, the Scarsdale native would play with G.I. Joes while the Disney Afternoon programming block would be playing in the background (Duck Tales, Darkwing Duck, Tail Spin and Rescue Rangers).
“Remembering the toaster was operating was paramount, since the TV room was in the attic,” he writes. “If I forgot about the snack, I would run down to the kitchen 10 minutes too late and find smoke billowing from the toaster, the cheese reduced to a black sludge, and the meal utterly ruined. This would result in throwing the food out and being filled with shame.”