Apr 20, 2010, 08:00AM

Table for One

Sometimes you just need to cram some food in your mouth -- and it's usually not pretty.

We all have dirty little secrets.
I asked my friend Steve what his go-to "alone food" dinner is. What he eats when he's too hungry or tired or rushed to make himself a proper meal, and no one's around to judge him. "I've often eaten whole bags of saltines or Ritz crackers, dipping them in Tabasco sauce until I'm drenched with sweat and sick to my stomach," he wrote.
"Wow," I wrote back. "WOW."  
I love good food, and am a good cook. I have delicious, wholesome food—lamb and eggplant over Persian rice, chickpea and saffron stew, curries and dals beyond counting, elaborate casseroles—carefully portioned out in oven safe containers in my freezer. I can whip a delicate risotto out of a relatively bare pantry in 25 minutes flat. I can make a perfectly fluffy omelet or a decent stir-fry in my sleep. But sometimes a girl just wants to come home after a long day and gnaw on a block of uncooked ramen.
Last week, I admit, I had popcorn for dinner three nights in a row. I popped it on the stove and browned the butter and sprinkled it with Worcestershire sauce, salt, and brewers yeast. It was great. It was so good that once I had it for breakfast again the next morning. I have a friend, we'll call her J., who can't cook. Once when I went to her house for dinner she managed to boil some chicken and broccoli for me, and bake a potato, but I could tell she was exhausted from the stress of it. In her single days a typical dinner would be frozen veggies microwaved and spray-buttered, and half a jar of Fluffernutter. ("It's healthy! It's fat-free!")
Another friend, D., when she came home from a long day at work, would often stand over the sink and eat frozen veggies out of the bag, still frozen, with a fork ("I like the crunch!"). Clare looks forward to days when her girlfriend works late; she treats herself to stovetop stuffing eaten straight from the pot with the spoon she stirred it with. She also enjoys the economy of eating beans straight from a can. In celebration of these culinary quickies, I've compiled some of the best "recipes." Fast, easy, perversely satisfying meals for busy people who are absolutely sure their roommate isn't coming home any time soon and that the blinds are drawn.
From Jon: "Two packs of Ramen along side of a couple of boiled hot dogs. If I'm feeling robust, I'll dump in some cheese and frozen veggies because sometimes two ramens and three dogs just might not satisfy. The beer is, of course, a requirement."
Julia: "Once I came home and was so hungry I put some raw tofu on a tortilla with some veganaise. It was awesomely gross."
Kate: "Carl budding ham and sour cream & onion potato chip sandwiches when my husband is at band practice."
Christine: "I'm a huge fan of ham and cheese roll ups that I will dip in mayo. Literally a piece of ham and a piece of cheese rolled up and dipped into the mayo jar. Sometimes I roll a potato chip in there. And cream cheese on Sun Chips, little chip sandwiches. I also enjoy green beans and anchovies straight out of the can. Not together, obviously, but out of the can nevertheless."
Dana: "Anything in the cupboard I can melt cheese on, and I'm not picky. I'll throw any kind of cracker on a plate and microwave it with cheese. Good with or without salsa."
The manner of eating these dinners is as important, of course, as the food itself. That which is not eaten straight out of its package should be consumed off a paper towel. Hands are better than spoons, when appropriate. The sofa is preferable to the table, and standing up, leaning over the sink is best of all.

  • these meals are so great in a disgusting way. especially when you've overeaten a combo such as pickles and cottage cheese...then realize you could've just made oatmeal.

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  • leftover desserts eaten while standing in front of the open fridge, no silverware needed. athankyou.

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  • Very funny article. I can't cook, and neither can my boyfriend (although he claims to whip up a mean chicken livers and onions stir-fry), so we mostly have take-out. And eat it on the sofa. Over the kitchen sink, though? That's a bridge too far for me.

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  • Your buddy Jon, with his Ramen and boiled hot dogs. Unfathomable and nauseating. Sometimes, I think Ramen, which is awful, is a badge of honor among students and post-students.

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