What could be more mortifying, for an eighth grader, than the agony of eating lunch alone? How about a school-wide assembly where you get an award for "Most Quiet"? Welcome to the excruciating but amusing life of 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher), the star of writer/director Bo Burnham's 2018 film Eighth Grade.
Kayla is a child of the internet. In between active shooter drills and playing the cymbals in the school band, Kayla vlogs. Her life advice videos—"Be Yourself" and "How To Be Confident"—don’t get many hits. But Kayla is optimistic. Her standard sign-off is "Gucci!"
Bravely, Kayla follows the advice of her own "Put Yourself Out There" video. She goes online and researches oral sex. But practicing on a banana is a no go—she hates bananas. Later, a fast food mall meal with high school kids proves that she doesn’t fit in with them, either.
Home is also no haven. Kayla lives alone with her father, who she goes to great lengths to avoid by focusing on her phone. At the dinner table, he actually has to throw food at her to get her attention.
Not all meals are cursed, though. When Gabe (Jake Ryan), an awkward boy her own age, invites Kayla to his house for a take-out dinner of chicken nuggets and French fries, the world starts to shift in her favor.
At first, nervousness gets in the way. Gabe doesn’t know if he should reheat the nuggets in the microwave, and worries that two of every kind of sauce isn’t enough. But they eventually relax, and toast to friendship.
They also forget about their phones, and actually talk to each other. When Gabe brings up a running gag about Szechuan sauce from an animated series they both love, Kayla’s laughter lights up the scene.
Maybe a chicken nugget and French fry dinner can be a turning point in your life, too. Or maybe your inner eighth grader craves a different finger food—foolproof pizza or nachos piled high or a Buffalo chicken grilled cheese sandwich. Or, bypass all of that and head straight for the chocolate peanut butter milkshake.
Watch Eighth Grade on Amazon Prime Video »
Copycat Chicken McNuggets With Sweet 'n' Sour Sauce
Using chicken thighs and bouillion makes for an intensely flavored nugget. Twice fried, they’re also extra crisp. A sweet-and-sour sauce of apricot jam, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, and cayenne comes together in just a few minutes.
Perfect French Fries
A few tricks ensure the perfect French fry. A uniform cut means each fry will cook evenly. A quick pre-boil with vinegar creates a fluffy interior, while frying twice at just the right temperature provides optimum crunch.
Foolproof Pan Pizza
It really doesn't get much easier than this pan pizza—though this bar-style pizza, which is built on a flour tortilla, may be one of the easiest recipes on our site. With a no-knead crust that's shaped and baked right in a cast-iron skillet, you're guaranteed a crispy crust with satisfying chew. It’s the perfect base for a simple topping of tomato sauce, low-moisture mozzarella, and basil.
The Ultimate Fully Loaded Nachos
No more fishing around for a good bite with this nacho recipe: Layering chips with their toppings—including refried beans, shredded cheese, nacho cheese sauce, and pickled jalapeños—ensures each one comes fully loaded. Leave a hole in the center for generous dollops of sour cream and guac.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Gooey, melty cheese and crisp, golden buttered bread may be the hallmarks of a great grilled cheese, but why stop there? We take a cue from Buffalo wings and fold in the the irresistible combination of tender chicken, pungent blue cheese, and Frank’s hot sauce.
Peanut Butter Cup Milkshake
If you love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, you'll be all over this shake. Butter-pecan and chocolate ice creams join peanut butter in giving the shake its rich, creamy body. A pinch of salt balances the sweetness, and a pour of whole milk thins it all out just enough to sip (chug?) through a straw.
Editor's note: This article is part of a new series developed with A24 to celebrate the marriage of food and film during this period of self-isolation.