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The Chaotic Art of Eating in Bed — And the Best Food to Chow Down On

What’s between my sheets? Spaghetti sauce, Ruffles crumbs and bits of everything bagel. Welcome to my trash kingdom

I don’t think eating in bed is smart or good, though I do so for almost every meal. Rather, I eat in bed in the serene spirit of tautology: I’ve eaten in bed so much that I might as well eat in bed some more before I eat in bed again. I’d like to be able to blame the pandemic, and it’s true that coronavirus has robbed me of restaurants, which once allowed me at least the dignity of plausible deniability: How could a stranger see me eating at a table in a restaurant with my clothes on and know my secret shame? 

But really, laziness has ruled the day for years. Even when I worked in an office, I usually ate at my desk, which is like eating in bed for people who know their blazer size. This went on until my coworker took me aside one day with a look of grave concern on her face. “You know you don’t have to work through lunch, right?” she said.

“I’m not working,” I promised her. “Just eating.”

“But you can eat in the break room.”

To this, I had no response. And I similarly have no response when people suggest, just as gently, that I can eat at the table instead of in my bed. Like, I know I can! But does the table have pillows, or cushioning, or my TV directly in front of it with which to catch up on my programs? 

No the fuck it does not, and thank you anyway for trying, as it’s not your fault I’m a wretched little stoner failing to blend into human society. Indeed, I happily embrace all that is messy in life: I work in a breakfast nook, I eat in bed and someday I’ll die in the living room.

With all of the above in mind, know that I am an expert on eating in bed, and have brought all my expertise to the below list of which foods are best and worst to, uh, sheet-eat. (Listen, how many times can I repeat the phrase “eat in bed” and “eating in bed”? These are desperate times!) My list may seem random, but it contains all the foods I eat most frequently between the sheets, which I believe means it contains all the foods that are worth eating in bed. But don’t take it from me! I also brought in a friend from the culinary world who has infinite patience for my pothead bullshit: my good friend Lilly, most recently a line cook at D.C.’s The Grill and pantry chef at Baltimore’s The Brewer’s Art

For thoroughness’ sake, I attempted to bring in a second friend from the culinary world to help render judgments, a chef I used to hook up with. But as was the case when we were hooking up, he was enthusiastic about collaborating at first and then stopped responding to my emails. So instead, I crowdsourced some additional responses via Twitter. I’ve included my followers’ thoughts as well as Lilly’s and mine, even though we rarely agree; apparently, my Twitter followers are much more conservative bed-eaters than she and I are!

Cheeseburgers With Fries

Sheet Eat Score: 9 out of 10

The upside of a cheeseburger in bed is the feeling of living like a goddamn king. Even the most lukewarm-off-the-heat-lamp Big Mac is still a heartier dose of fatty beef than centuries’ worth of people could expect to eat in their entire lifetimes. The downside? Well, there’s no delicate way to say this: Wet beef juice. “You gotta finesse it,” advises Lilly. “Your body is there to shield your linens from the juicy, medium-rare drippings.” (Which, agreed: There’s no earthly excuse for a burger to be cooked any way other than medium rare, and no reason I shouldn’t get yonder drippings all over my torso to valiantly rescue my sheets.)

The fries are easier, especially if, like me, you refuse to countenance dipping sauces of any kind for your fries. And especially if, like me, you believe the odd greasy thumbprint on a white bed sheet is a sign of the bedsheet’s “charm” and “character.” Lilly agrees: “You know how they pass around silver trays of grapes and fan each other with palm leaves at a full-on Roman orgy? I would like that in bed, except with French fries.” (Handsome men who are good at passing around silver trays of fries and shutting the hell up can reach me at [email protected].)

Sadly, only 59 percent of Twitter users surveyed agreed that cheeseburgers are a solid choice.

Spaghetti

Sheet Eat Score: 9 out of 10

A bold choice! A bold choice for a bold woman. Lilly’s concern here is one of technique, or in her words, “Are you a twirler or a slurper? Because twirlers win this round.” Alas, I am a slurper, an oral sprayer of sauces both red and white, an accidental expectorater of Parmesan particles during spit-takes of all kinds and a generally incompetent eater. But I’m still giving spaghetti a 9/10 because they’re my sheets, and I don’t care if the ballistic patterns at this particular crime scene indicate a toddler meatball fight. Nyah nyah.

Of Twitter users polled, a staggeringly low 28 percent agreed with me. Bummer.

Instant Ramen

Sheet Eat Score: 8 out of 10

Same potential problems as spaghetti, with the additional obstacle of all that broth slopping around in your bowl, still boiling hot because you were too impatient to let your ramen cool down before throwing your face into it. Lilly and I agree that instant ramen must be slurped at all costs, too, so it becomes a real balancing act with the broth and the slurping noodles and the hot bowl balanced ineffectively on your mattress. Again, this should really have a way lower score, but I’m a slovenly little broth goblin as previously established.

Weirdly, though Twitter users mostly weren’t on board with spaghetti, 58 percent think instant ramen is good to eat in bed.

Popcorn

Sheet Eat Score: 7 out of 10

I was surprised that this one fostered, like, no controversy. But then I remembered that most people don’t buy the “extra movie theater butter” varieties of popcorn and then proceed to melt additional butter on top as it comes out of the microwave. My family’s history with popcorn is tainted by tragedy: When I was little, my dad tried to microwave a bag of popcorn and accidentally set the microwave on fire. (After he put it out, he tried to build a fire in the fireplace, and set an additional fire. The people in my family shouldn’t be allowed to do things without a grown-up present.) My own popcorn quibbles are less dramatic but still, I think, relevant: What other snack contains as much butter and salt with which to assault your sleeping quarters? And Lilly points out something I hadn’t even considered. “Waking up with kernel-shaped imprints on you,” she notes, “is inevitable.”

Seventy-nine percent of Twitter users agree that popcorn can be happily eaten in bed.

Cookies

Sheet Eat Score: 10 out of 10 (homemade); 6 out of 10 (store-bought)

To my mind, the critical distinction here is between homemade and store-bought cookies. Homemade cookies are consumed fresh out of the oven and present a melted chocolate chip hazard; store-bought cookies are consumed an entire sleeve at a time and present a crumb hazard. Homemade cookies require more work on the front end (to bake them), while all the labor of store-bought cookies happens on the back end. So I think homemade cookies win this round neatly, while Lilly opines that only with store-bought cookies can the enterprising eater “suck them through the bag like a Dyson.” A strong case, but one that fails to negate the hassle of finding crumbs from last month’s Oreos in this evening’s sheets.

Eighty percent of Twitter users agreed that cookies are a solid choice for bed-eating.

Potato Chips

Sheet Eat Score: 8 out of 10

The high rating here is based solely on taste. Not only are potato chips some of the worst offenders when it comes to mess, but the mess in question is something of a biological weapon with the power to fuck up your skin something awful. Lilly concurs, warning, “Any residual crumbs left on your bed will result in serious backne.” Still, no amount of backne could stop me from inhaling a joint followed by an economy-size bag of Ruffles, all in the span of a single episode of Parks and Recreation. You call it grim, I call it Friday, baby!

Seventy percent of my Twitter focus-group members agree that potato chips are good to eat in bed.

A Healthy, Balanced Breakfast (Eggs, Pancakes, Coffee, Fresh Fruit)

Sheet Eat Score: 5 out of 10

This one was hard! I mean, who doesn’t want breakfast in bed delivered by the same handsome guy from before, the one with the silver trays of French fries? Lilly and I both think that coffee and fresh fruit are non-controversial enough, even though the fruit could detonate and leave your sheets juicy; still, it’s a luxurious thing to have fruit brought to you in bed, one that we agree makes us feel like hot divorcées with terrible secrets. The problem is with the eggs and pancakes, or with smell and texture, respectively. “The residual odor of eggs never truly leaves, once it’s there. It’s the cat piss of breakfast foods,” Lilly says. As for pancakes: “You’re going to wind up sticky for the wrong reason.”

Fifty-four percent of Twitter users surveyed disagree, and believe that a full breakfast can be safely eaten in bed. Wrong!

Bagel With Spread

Sheet Eat Score: 9 out of 10

We two Jewish ladies agree: This is what breakfast in bed should be! Sure, it’s not as luxurious as the whole Megillah with the eggs and the pancakes, and it lends itself less satisfyingly to transport via handsome guy/silver tray. But it’s self-contained, and unlikely to make a mess.

Two points removed because admittedly, seeds (both poppy and sesame) do like to launch themselves off the walls of a bagel and get buried who knows where. And the good people of New York’s bagel shops do love to slather on fat gobs of cream cheese which, left unchecked, occasionally tumble out the sides of even the sturdiest bagel. However, one point re-added because haven’t the Jews suffered enough?

Eighty-six percent of Twitter users are on our side and enjoy a bagel in bed.

Granola Bars

Sheet Eat Score: 5 out of 10

For me, this is the absolute worst food to eat in bed. Those goddamn Nature Valley granola bars! No matter how I tiptoe around trying to open these things all Mission: Impossible, the second that wrapper is open, my entire family three generations back will be covered in granola crumbs. It’s a shame. These things are tasty, and the logo uses this comforting forest green color that makes me think I’m eating something natural and healthy. But however careful I am, every time I crack open a granola bar, it generates a quantity of rubble that registers on the Richter scale.

Lilly is less worried about all this than I am and accepts the fact of the humble granola bar with a shrug and two solid eye-rolls. “This is my ‘break glass in case of hunger emergency’ bed food,” she tells me. “Eaten while leaning over the side of the bed at 3 a.m.” Points duly added since I guess not everybody sucks at opening granola bars, or at being alive, as much as I do.

Only 43 percent of Twitter users think granola bars are good to eat in bed, though, so I suspect that my issue is a common one.

Fried Chicken

Sheet Eat Score: 6 out of 10

I used to hook up with a chef (a different chef from the guy mentioned above — I have a type) who once cooked fried chicken for me to eat in bed. He lived in a great little studio apartment, laid out such that I could lie in his bed and watch him frying chicken in the kitchen. I ate it with some kind of slaw that supposedly “brought the acid” — professional chefs are forever telling you how this or that food “brings the acid.” It was great, and hot, and after that day, I never saw him again, so Naked Fried Chicken Guy is the one who got away, and fried chicken in bed is obviously my Proustian madeleine, a food packed with memories plus enough calories to feed a relatively unambitious high school football team.

Lilly also has a fried chicken in bed story, but it’s horrifying. “I was on a decadent hotel hookup date, and the guy I was on the date with ordered fried chicken wings to our hotel room,” she says. “He proceeded to wipe the grease on the bedspread, and I was traumatized for life.” Two kinds of men in this world, I suppose.

Fifty-one percent of Twitter users are pro-fried chicken, while 49 percent are anti. A close call!

Candy 

Sheet Eat Score: 4 out of 10

Full marks for the candy itself, but several points deducted because lots of candy means lots of little wrappers to bedevil your body while it sleeps later. I suppose I could just throw the wrappers away as I finish with them, but it doesn’t feel as sporting that way. Lilly is even less optimistic: “Unless it’s a complimentary pillow mint or tiny piece of chocolate, I don’t want it.” 

But Twitter disagrees with us! 90 percent of Twitter users surveyed are a passel of candy-gobbling perverts. Fair enough!