Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin recently stopped by NPR to discuss their new book, What We Eat When We Eat Alone, a story and recipe collection devoted to the idea that when we're by ourselves, we tend to eat differently.

Whether it's due to convenience, comfort, laziness, or a need for a little adventure, Madison and McFarlin argue that people tend to play by different rules when they're cooking for a party of one. I'm not much of a cook (I'm more of a baker), but when I do cook for others, I tend to take certain needs into consideration: dietary restrictions, personal likes or dislikes, etc: you never want to serve a meatloaf to a room of vegans, dig?

But when I cook for myself, I tend to cook things that mostly anyone would eat: simple, basic dishes (mostly because that's my skill level, as far as cooking is concerned) that wouldn't offend anyone who happened to walk through the door. However, in the past, there were times when I hid certain comfort foods for fear that they would gross other people out a bit. It was all well and good until I moved in with my now-fiance a few years ago and caught a really terrible flu that just wouldn't go away. Naturally, he asked if he could help in any way, and in a fit of fever and exhaustion, I blurted: "I just want a bowl of Goldfish soup."

Goldfish soup, of course, consists of one can of super salty Campbell's condensed Double Noodle soup (chicken broth, no actual chicken bits) and about half a bag of Goldfish crackers. It is salty and cheap and though it makes my foodie friends recoil in horror, it is the BEST thing ever when you have a cold. My fiance, who is a bit of a food snob, actually ended up eating Goldfish soup himself when he caught the same flu a few days later. "It's really good," he sniffed as he gingerly lifted spoonfuls into his mouth.


Perhaps it speaks to our food obsessed culture that some of us have to hide our favorites for fear of being judged by others who tend to view what we eat as an extension of who we are. Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a famous bit about how you never see Hot Pockets on a restaurant menu, yet Hot Pockets have been selling for decades, a testament to the fact that what we eat in the privacy of our own homes isn't necessarily what we eat when we're under the surveillance of others.

So what say you, commenters? Do you have any secret meals? Or is your cooking style consistent, no matter how many people you're cooking for?


Jim Gaffigan: Hot Pockets [YouTube]
What We Really Eat When We Eat Alone [NPR]

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