As much as I love the communal experience of eating with other people, I relish eating alone. It is a private time that is totally devoted to the scents, feels, and tastes of my food. My senses are awakened and I needn’t justify my excitement or relaxation to anyone else. Moreover…I don’t need to justify the embarrassing foods I love to eat when I am alone.
Take your gourmet sausages and molecular-gastronomy hot dogs. Give me a frozen package of kosher franks tucked inside fluffy, yeasty puff pastry, toss them in the oven until the weenies are piping hot. When they are juicy within and slightly crunchy without, let me dip them in spicy deli mustard. These are some of my favorite eat alone snacks. I also eat them in front of other people, but they are so delicious when eaten alone while watching Jeopardy on TV.
It must be the transplanted New Yorker in me. When I lived on the west coast, I ate Chinese food maybe once every 6 months. Now, it is rarely a week that I go without eating the stuff. The cheaper, greasier, and saltier the better. Load me up with the americanized stuff – fried spring rolls, saucy beef with broccoli, and fried rice which may or may not include animals that I really don’t want to eat. I invariable wake up in the middle of the night to chug a gallon of club soda, dehydrated and bloated with salt. And I invariably love it.
I know that this will give me tumors and cause my skin to turn sallow and pimply. I know that it goes against everything that I believe in regarding real and seasonal food. But do you know how delicious this stuff is? Cheesy, salty, sticky…If you sprinkle it with hot sauce while it is still warm, it is even better. Some people like to eat the stuff with chopsticks, but I sort of like the way that the cheesy powder clings to my fingers in a light, tight orange sheath.
Perhaps the most secret of my alone food. It isn’t a specific food, it is specific ingredients:
Creamy – cottage cheese, sour cream, greek yogurt, cream cheese, etc. Something creamy, spreadable, and rather mild.
Sour – lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, dill pickle relish, mango chutney, etc. Something that adds tang and acidity.
Spicy – sriracha, fresh spicy peppers, spicy mustard, garlic-chili paste. Something that makes you sit up and take notice.
Fresh – fresh vegetables, salsa, fresh fruit, lightly pickled produce. Something that adds sweetness, earthiness, and freshness to the dish.
Here, the concoction is made of cottage cheese, balsamic vinegar, fresh spicy banana peppers, and summer tomatoes. Served on bread, it might not sound like much, but it fulfills every main sensor on my palate. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
If you, like me, love to eat alone, check out this book, one of my favorites on the subject. It is especially delightful to read while eating a tortilla filled with mayonnaise, relish, mango chutney, and cheddar cheese.
Or, you know, whatever you love to eat when you are alone.