Issue 30

The Dumpster: We’re Doomed, What’s for Dinner

The Dumpster: We’re Doomed, What’s for Dinner

Global Warming. Underwear Bombers. Gluten. Life feels precarious. I’ve gone beyond worrying about where my next meal is coming from to worrying whether I’ll make it to happy hour.

To console myself, I make every meal a Last Supper. Not the broken bread and bloody wine kind, but real comfort food that will send me to the pearly gates with a happy belly.

Show Me the Fat

The foundation of all comfort food is fat. Lard, oil, and butter all trigger our evolutionary dopamine, signaling “Everything is fine. Go back to sleep.” Fat feels safe. Fat equals not starving. Fat is mother’s milk. Heck, boobs are made of fat.

Skinny people make great models because they look like clothes hangers. But when you need real comforting, nobody wants a bony hug.

Cheese, the refined offspring of fat, is a brick of happy. Cheese needs no cooking, so guys like it. When it melts, it’s like gravy. Cheese is fat you can hold in your hands. It’s stackable. Without cheese, nachos are nothing more than corn chip and hamburger salad.

Mac & Cheese, Please

Macaroni is a benign carrier like white bread: flavorless, with just enough structure to hold the food you really want to eat. Mac-and-cheese is a go-to comfort food because it’s made almost entirely of cheese. Macaroni is just there so you can pick it up. That’s why it’s shaped like a handle.

Macaroni and cheese is comforting for another reason: your mom made it for you. It harkens you back to a time when you were clothed, housed and fed by a servant. Good times.

Kraft tries to capitalize on our pathetic loneliness by putting mac and cheese in a do-it-yourself box, but nothing says loveless more than powdered cheese and skinny noodles. Kraft macaroni and cheese tastes like parents too busy for their kids. It has the same color and flavor as Hot Wheels track.

What goes with mac and cheese? Ketchup. And regret.

The comfort food I actually do make: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Here’s my recipe: Butter two slices of dense wheat bread. Butter the pan. Butter the butter. Smear yogurt on the inside of the bread slices. Do not use nonfat yogurt. This is a grilled cheese friggin’ sandwich, for Pete’s sake. Lay on some sharp cheddar cheese and dust lightly with cayenne pepper. If you are expecting nuclear obliteration or fire-and-brimstone, add a bit more cayenne. It will help you acclimate.

The recipe for the soup is: open the can.

Cheddar is Better

I love to wrap my arms and legs around a giant bowl of popcorn, with a side of cheddar cheese and wine. Wine, cheese and popcorn are a holy trinity, and it tastes even better if you wear flannel jammies.

If you don’t have any servants, you may find some comfort in convenience store microwave burritos. They are fun to peel like a banana, without tasting like one. There is enough fat and salt in a burrito to kill you mercifully before you die of whatever cataclysm made you want a burrito in the first place.

Ice cream is nobody’s comfort food, really. We keep dipping into it only because it looks so comforting when Meg Ryan eats it in, well, every Meg Ryan movie.

Comfort Food #3: breakfast for dinner. I don’t know why this works except that the breakfast foods we choose are Froot Loops, pancakes and bacon, which is like having candy for dinner. The reverse doesn’t work the same: nobody is comforted by roast beef and mashed potatoes for breakfast.

Maybe the world isn’t really coming to an end. I know I can’t eat comfort food every meal just to be safe. But when I’m feeling especially insecure, it seems smart to stock up on comfort, just in case. That’s what survivalists do.

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell is a songwriter and humor essayist. His “Dumpster” column closes every issue of Food & Spirits magazine. He has authored two books, including Are You Going To Eat That? (2009), and Of Mice and Me (2017). He also has four albums of original songs. The latest, My Turn Now, was released in 2015. Learn more at

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