Nachos and Root Beer Floats

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I got my first honest-to-god internship at a Pittsburgh TV station. What fun! Hobnobbing with Steve the weatherman, organizing Summerfest at Sandcastle water park, working on a Good Morning America live feed from the Pittsburgh Zoo. How could an ambitious gal like me pass it up? But this was an internship, which meant I was getting college credit instead of cold hard cash for my troubles, and therefore I was still bound to a family residence.

Logistics meant that if I stayed parentally supervised, I’d have an hour and a half commute each way to Pittsburgh. Not happening. I’d stay alone at my mom’s house while she was away for the summer. The continued sweet freedom of a college student!

Only there was no meal plan in an empty house, and though I’d been cooking small dishes like garlic green beans and herbed couscous (and yes, mac & cheese) in what passed for a dorm kitchen, this was my first chance to be cooking and feeding myself on a daily basis.

So my career as a kitchen wizard began. It’s funny that for someone who ended up so food-obsessed, I have absolutely no recollection of anything I ate or cooked that summer, save for one thing: I distinctly recall that a heaping plate of nachos and a foamy root beer float were my end-of-week reward for a job well done. Maybe even twice a week.

root beer foam
The root beer float specifically had to be made in a special curvy retro-style Coca-Cola glass, which I believe was acquired as part of a Denny’s or Eat’n Park promotion in high school. One can of Barq’s poured over two scoops of Breyer’s and I was in business.

root beer floatOver the past year I’ve traded up from Barq’s to Maine Root (available at Whole Foods, so I don’t have to bring cases back from Portland! Hallelujah!). I also use my homemade vanilla ice cream with cloves and vanilla bean added to the custard before freezing. Maine Root already has clove, anise, and wintergreen extract in its natural brew, so one plays off the other perfectly.

(And for those of you with the foraging gene within you—not me; I’d kill someone with an unexpectedly poisonous leaf—Hank Shaw at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook has a homemade root beer recipe on tap.)

As for the nachos, it was imperative to use the broiler instead of the microwave as a cheese-melting vehicle. The tips of the tortilla chips took on a slightly charred crispness, and the cheese melted so evenly, just like on the nachos I inhaled regularly at TGI Friday’s, because I was truly a cosmopolitan lady. Seriously, how did I not starve myself and/or gain 10 pounds that summer?

Old habits die hard. Broiler nachos are still a once-in-a-while reward here at the Barber house, still made in the exact same way. Here’s what I put on my chips:

FTC Disclosure: Good. Food. Stories. is an affiliate and receives a minuscule commission on all purchases made through Amazon links in our posts. If you'd like to support the site further, please use this link or click the Amazon links in the sidebar to make your purchases.

Get it While it’s Hot!

Sign up to receive the latest Good. Food. Stories. while they are still piping hot, directly to your inbox.


  1. moom says

    not a salsa stain or tortilla crumbs were found upon my return but autographed photos of Steven Cropper … that’s another story!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. Courtney Thompson says

    I think I made my first batch of nachos–under a broiler of course, mircrowaved nachos are for heathens–at age 10. More recently, I made them for dinner last night after working late. They are still my fave faux dinner in a pinch option. Glad to hear that someone like yourself hearts them to Casey!! xoxo