What is life if not projecting your anxieties, failures and childhood trauma onto a heaping plate of trans fats? Or better put, how else are you to deal with your anxieties, failures and childhood trauma if not by burying them in trans fats? (Drugs and especially alcohol don’t count because they typically lead to the kind of munchies and binge eating in which trans fats thrive anyway.)
And yet, there are plenty of other reasons to feel shame about a specific food order. Maybe it’s just basic as shit. Maybe it’s in direct violation of your culture or family custom. Or maybe it’s just disgusting — either in its sheer volume or horrific combination of flavors. In any event, here are the food orders we 1) feel tremendous shame about, and 2) until now, have done everything in our power from having another living human being find out about.
Three Del Tacos From Del Taco
Miles Klee, Staff Writer: It’s a stretch to suppose I have any shame, particularly when it comes to the junk I eat. But there’s not much I can say to defend my occasional craving for the basic, gringo-ass taco at Del Taco, which is called, fittingly, “the Del Taco.” With all the cheap, authentic and legendary tacos in L.A., why would I want the fast-food, hard-shell, iceberg-lettuce-and-shredded-cheddar version? I can only guess it’s something about the greasy ground beef — you know, the stuff that seems like dog food, but for humans — that keeps me coming back. Well, that and the $80 Del Taco gift card a friend sent me because they live on the East Coast and have nowhere to use it.
Anyway, when the urge hits, I’ll stop at the chain on the way home from work and wolf down three of these insults to Mexican cuisine, doused in plenty of Scorcho sauce. Always alone, always quickly, lest I be discovered and my secret shame revealed. And now I’m just admitting it. Let’s call that progress.
15 Wingstop Wings, Two Sprites, Large Fries and Extra-Large Caramel Sundae
Quinn Myers, Staff Writer: About every 30 days, usually when my wife won’t be home to witness what’s about to happen, I order Wingstop. (I’ve even been known to take the remnants of this meal all the way out to the alley and into the garbage, so she won’t know my shame.) This meaty abyss starts innocently enough with an order of 10 classic wings (six mango habañero and four garlic parmesan), but then I say “yes, fuck it” to the “add five extra?” prompt, because I’m a little piggy boy and I’ve broken free from my pen.
Two containers of blue cheese, a large fries with cheese and Sprite (well, two Sprites, because technically this is a value meal meant for two people) later, and I hate myself. Any calories I’ve burned between these Wingstop binges have immediately reappeared. I’m full, tired and will reek of garlic parmesan for at least another 18 hours.
But it doesn’t end there. It’s not uncommon that within five or six hours, I’ll realize I haven’t had dessert and will order delivery from a McDonald’s that’s two blocks away. When you’re at rock bottom, why not dig in and numb yourself to the pain? (Pro tip: On UberEats, you can order an Oreo McFlurry, hold the Oreo, add caramel topping and voila: You’ve got an XL caramel sundae.)
Sugar, Dairy, Salt, Fat and Factory-Farmed Beef
Lauren Vinopal, Staff Writer: My go-to shame order is easily a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake — a triple threat to my health and well-being. Sugar, dairy, salt, fat and factory-farmed beef, it covers all the terrible food groups. There’s nothing nutritional or ethical about it, even by accident. It arrives, though, like a bomb with a timer on it. And so, I have to rapidly consume it while the fries are still hot and crispy, but the shake is still thick and cold. Such a pace might be too fast to enjoy the taste, but the part when the brain freeze stops and the food coma sets in is remarkably soothing.
A Mountain of Chinese Food… With a Side of Sushi
Nick Leftley, Senior Editor: There’s no one dish I’m particularly ashamed to order — it’s more the amount of food I order when I’m drunk that’s the problem (put it this way, I’m highly unlikely to stop at said one dish). On the rare occasion I get a night out (kids, innit), I’ll hit a certain point in the evening — midnight-ish — where I’m suddenly stricken with a hunger that would make a ravenous kraken question if maybe it was feeding itself properly. At that point, you can keep trying to talk to me about your relationship problems or your penchant for collecting gold-plated Pokemon or whatever the hell else people talk about, but by now, I’m looking at the half-eaten sandwich under the trash can outside the way a marmot looks at a lichen-covered boulder after eight long months of hibernation.
I’ll check the delivery times before I order my Lyft, trying to time it so that I and my food arrive perfectly in sync. And then I’m ordering: A dozen steamed dumplings? Check. Pair of pork buns, each the size of my fist? Yeppers. Bucket of chow fun that weighs roughly the same as an infant buffalo? Oh yes. A foot-long rainbow roll from the Chinese place that inexplicably also serves sushi? Fuck it, I wasn’t planning on being alive tomorrow anyway. If what I order doesn’t show up with at least four pairs of chopsticks, I know I haven’t ordered enough.
And if I pass out without finishing it? Well, these days I have to get it together enough to put the rest in the fridge, so I don’t wake up and find my small children carefully, deliberately smearing it into the carpet. But back in my more carefree days, the experience of waking up and rolling over to discover a pile of (probably?) still-edible food on the floor next to my bed was one of my true joys. You may call them leftovers, my friend, but I had an entirely different name for them: Surprise Morning Floor Treats.
I miss them.
A Not Dissimilar Amount of Panda Express
Ian Lecklitner, Staff Writer: I maintain that Panda Express can provide a decently healthy meal, especially compared to the likes of McDonald’s and Taco Bell, where even a salad has enough salt to kill a small elephant. They have plenty of options with loads of vegetables, like their String Bean Chicken Breast or Broccoli Beef. And if you really care about your health, you can opt for a side of their Super Greens, instead of fried rice or chow mein.
All of which makes me feel even more like a piece of shit when, presented with steaming basins of vegetables and lean meats, I inevitably ask the server to scoop some deep-fried, sauce-drenched Orange Chicken and Sweetfire Chicken atop my king-size bed of chow mein. So either Panda Express needs to stop serving healthy items that make me feel bad, or I need to stop ordering the unhealthy ones. (I think we all know which one of these needs to happen.)
A Salt Bagel With at Least a Half Stick of Butter
Brian VanHooker, Staff Writer: I understand how gross this sounds, but once in a great while, I like to order a salt bagel with a lot of butter — like, an embarrassing amount of butter. Like, imagine how much cream cheese people put on a bagel, that much butter.
I don’t order this very often, but when I get a hankering for it, I check to see if my bagel place has the right amount of salt on their salt bagels, because they’ve got to be covered in salt, like a pretzel that was way oversalted. (I also get it untoasted — as a truly good, fresh bagel never needs toasting.) Then I tell the person making my bagel to “cake the butter on there,” and 50 percent of the time, they still don’t get it right and I have to give it back and request more butter. It’s incredibly embarrassing, but since I only order it a few times a year, I want it exactly how I like it — or you know, with almost half a stick of butter on it.
Honestly, I don’t know what it is that I like about it, because afterward, my mouth is so puckered from the salt that it literally burns. I also refuse to order it in front of my wife for fear that she will be permanently disgusted by me. Not only that, but the process of ordering it has only become more shameful in recent years because the lady at my local bagel shop seems to delight in giving me judgmental looks whenever I show up for it.
Yes, lady at the bagel shop, I know how disgusting it is, now please keep putting butter on my bagel until you basically run out of butter, thank you very much.
Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
Joseph Longo, Staff Writer: It’s not that I’m embarrassed to eat Jif Creamy Peanut Butter. It’s the amount of money I think I’m spending on this singular brand — the best peanut butter to ever exist — that makes me feel shame. But Skippy is too buttery. The name Smuckers is dumb. Anything in a glass is too expensive. And organic PBs require mixing the separated oil and paste, and that’s tiring. As for crunchy peanut butter? Never.
Many days go by where every single meal I consume includes Jif. Living on a low-carb, high-protein diet, peanut butter is the most versatile food. It’s a spread for crackers, a pairing for apples or bananas, a topping on yogurt and a full meal replacement a little too regularly.
On average, I go through two 16-ounce tubs of Jif a week. That’s usually $7 unless Key Food is running a sale. There’s 52 weeks in a year, which means I’m spending on average $364 a year solely on peanut butter.
Honestly, that’s not nearly as bad as I expected. And so, fuck it, my shame is no more.
Indian Food My Grandmother Didn’t Make
Hussein Kesvani, U.K./Europe Editor: Friday night curry is a tradition in a lot of households in the U.K., so much so that one of the biggest worries of Brexit was whether the nation’s curry houses would survive. But this also puts me in a slightly unique conundrum. Being of Indian heritage, and coming from a traditional family that still uses centuries-old Gujarati recipes to make staple dishes like daal, karahi gosht and aloo saag, it’s always weird to order Indian food cooked by someone who isn’t my grandma. Partly, too, because most Indian restaurants in the U.K. are run by Pakistanis who speak Urdu, and Bangladeshis who speak Bengali. They have different words and pronunciations for these dishes, meaning that whenever you order them on the phone, you either end up sounding like an incredibly posh English person, or worse, completely showing your ass by mispronouncing these basic words in an Indian accent.
More than that though, there’s a certain class-related guilt that comes with being an upper-middle class South Asian person who, by ordering Indian food, is complicit in facilitating a system that relies on underpaid South Asian cooks, as well as even more underpaid South Asian Deliveroo guys.
All of which is to say that ordering Indian food as an Indian is less of a guilty self-indulgence than an exercise in moral philosophy. Certainly, the guilt you feel after wolfing down chicken bhuna and garlic naan isn’t just because of the amount of oil you’ve ingested.
Six Paint Cans Full of Sour Gummy Candies
Brian Smith, Features Writer: As a young adult, my go-to McDonald’s order was two Big Macs, otherwise known as Donald Trump’s appetizer. My older brother actually pulled me aside one day and said something along the lines of, “Dude, you need to stop eating two-at-a-time Big Macs.” So I did. And thus, the shame order has shifted. Not to mention, as a recovering drug addict, my dopamine receptors yearn for stimulation. Because the holy trinity of dopamine dumps — opiates, cocaine and amphetamines — are off the table, I’m left only with masturbation and sugar as dishonorable mentions. As such, I’ll occasionally find myself alone at Dylan’s Candy Bar — not a good look for a 41-year-old single man — shoveling as many sour-based gummy candies as I can into multiple Bear Cub Cuties Paint Cans. (My record is six.)
Handfuls (Not Six Paint Cans Full) of (Not Sour) Gummy Bears
Andrew Fiouzi, Staff Writer: This is tough only because I don’t feel much shame at the outset of when I begin shoveling Haribo gummy bears into my mouth in handfuls of five or six at a time. Instead, I feel pure and utter bliss as I mutilate those little corn syrup, dextrose-infused gelatin bears. But of course, like most sane purveyors of gummy snacks, I, too, wish the pack was filled only with red, green and white gummies. And therein lies the problem: Because once I’ve annihilated the reds, the greens and the whites, I’m faced with a pack filled with only the yellow and orange ones.
That’s the moment I begin to feel the shame, as entropy quivers in my brain. I know what those orange and yellow gummy bears have always known: That even though I don’t like them, I will still eat them, one by one, as though I’m a reptile eating its young. It’s all so very, very shameful.
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
Zaron Burnett III, Contributing Writer: No self-respecting Black person would ever be caught eating Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in public. Let alone, sing the food’s praises to strangers. But truth be told, I prefer it. If my sister heard me say shit like that, she’d threaten to disown me because in her words, “The family doesn’t need those kinda weak-ass genes.” Her homemade baked mac ’n’ cheese is legendarily good. Same for my father’s. They use different recipes. Each developed their own. And so did my grandmom, my pop’s mother. Yet, if you served up a plate of each of theirs, best they could make it, I’d still prefer the Kraft Mac & Cheese and it’s reconstituted food goodness.
This is my secret shame. It’s a betrayal of my family, my people and my sense of deliciousness. But like, let’s be real about this: A box of mac ’n’ cheese isn’t really a food. It’s more like a controlled science experiment you can eat. You boil water. You tear open up a box to retrieve an envelope, and inside that sealed pouch is a finely granulated powder that’s about the same color as a sun-bleached traffic cone. Then you pour a smattering of tiny curved tubules into a pot of boiling hydrogen-oxygen compound. After seven to 10 minutes, this saturation process is finished and your science experiment should be removed from the open flame.
Next, you strain the results and pour what remains back into the pot (or a suitable bowl). There, you combine that starch with two types of animal fats and mix it together with the aforementioned Technicolor finely granulated powder. The “flavors” mix and settle into a thin “cheese sauce” that coats the microtubules. Grab a fork and enjoy!
It’s a meal made with all the same love and care that one expects goes into making a car tire. “Reconstituted” isn’t a word most people would use to describe one of their favorite foods — unless we’re talking about a recipe reconstituted from memory. Not me, though. You give me a mixing bowl of steaming hot Kraft Mac & Cheese, and I’ll be happier than a preschooler who gets to skip naptime.
Chocolate Cake With a Side of Chocolate Cake
Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor: You’re at a nice restaurant. The meal is over. The waiter comes by to ask if you’d like to look at the dessert menu. The rest of the people at your table demur: They couldn’t possibly eat another bite. This is when the shame kicks in for me. Yes, I would like to look at the dessert menu, and I’m going to be seeking specifically whatever is the chocolate-iest thing on there. I don’t care if it’s big and gooey and more appropriate for a child — I want chocolate. Lots of it.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t have chocolate because of digestive issues. I’m making up for that childhood shortfall with a vengeance in adulthood. I get chocolate whenever I can. But out at restaurants, this often means I eat alone, while everyone else is sipping their coffee like dignified grownups. To hell with that: I was deprived of chocolate cake as a boy, and so I will eat every chocolate cake that comes my way now. And don’t ask if you can try a bite. You should have gotten your own.
Extremely Hot Soup on an Extremely Hot Day
Me: Want to know how much of a sick masochist I am? I’ll tell you. I like to order soup on a hot day. I like to sit outside at a nice table — preferably one being swarmed by bees because that’s how hot and summer-y of a day it is — and order a near-boiling bowl of pho, ramen, tortilla soup, tom yum or any other scalding, savory liquid I can get my sick, masochistic hands on. Then, as the thermometers around me burst from the sheer force of the heat, I proceed to eat said soup while sweating profusely and silently crying from the spice level I’ve insisted on, stewing in my own discomfort like the noodles stew in the broth.
“Why didn’t you just order something room temperature, or even cold?” my well-meaning friends and family implore. “Why are you doing this to yourself? Why do you love pain?”
Great question. The answer is that I don’t know. Why does anyone love anything? I could try to psychoanalyze it; I could try to throw some anecdote from my childhood at it in the hopes it would rationalize the insanity of my most sweltering pleasure, but what’s the point? I’m going to do it anyway, and I’m going to do it all summer long. With a hot drink on the side, too.
People look at me like I’m insane. And maybe I am. Insanely smart, that is. Apparently, desert-dwelling people have been drinking hot tea and eating spicy-ass hot things in hot climates for years — the added heat makes you sweat more, which cools you down faster.
Not that I care. The brute utility of my little habit is truly the last thing I’m thinking about when I pull this stunt. The only thing that’s really on my mind is the sweet, sweet taste of soup and the cheap thrill it gives me when I mainline it on the hottest day of the year.
Sorry I’m not sorry.
Magdalene Taylor, Editorial Assistant: I don’t associate food with shame, because I don’t wish to live my life in misery. But not feeling bad about food is different than not feeling weird about it. Tuna salad on the menu? I’m ordering it. Tuna salad is an undoubtedly perverted food. And if it’s not perverted, it’s definitely geriatric. I’m fine with that, too! That said, because tuna is tuna, it’s difficult to be secretive about it. If you’re going to eat a tuna sandwich, you have to be loud and proud about it (mostly because you stink of it).
Impeccably Researched Chinese
Jeff Gross, Social Media Editor: I’m truly embarrassed for my colleagues, because not one of these entries sufficiently (imho) falls into the category of “secret shame.” To wit: Planning for my secret shame meal begins at least 48 to 72 hours before my girlfriend is scheduled to leave the house. At this outer marker, so to speak, I pick a cuisine: Chinese? Italian? Thai…? Who am I kidding, it’s without a doubt always Chinese.
The night of, I pre-plan to spend at least an hour scanning menus on a delivery app, and cross-referencing interesting items with pictures from the restaurants’ geotags on Instagram, or photos on Yelp. Noodles look wack? I’m swiping left. Too many extraneous veggies (like bamboo shoots) in the kung pao chicken? Thank you, next.
When I’ve finally decided on a restaurant (and the GF has officially left the building) I make my horrifying order: Two appetizers (potstickers and egg rolls, natch), one entree (typically ma po tofu with pork) and rice. I eat the whole thing in front of the TV and feel absolutely disgusted.
Detroit Deep Dish Pizza From Little Caesars
Eddie Kim, Staff Writer: It’s the Detroit deep dish pizza from Little Caesars, which I can polish off solo if I’m depressed and/or irresponsibly blazed. There’s some nostalgia at play, here: I grew up with the chain mostly because my parents were broke and it was cheaper than Pizza Hut. But their deep dish is a modern invention (circa 2013), and my God, what a glorious monument of grease and gluten it is. The edges of the crust crackle with caramelized cheese. The bread is buttery but light. It’s an endorphin rush from the first bite. And I can rarely stop after two slices. It’s a good thing that I don’t order this pizza more often — it means the shame is working!