Our Love Affair With Mediocre Food

Waffle House

I have been having an affair.  For years now I have been going behind the back of my first true love, for the dirty, grimy, and greasy mistress.  The shame I felt over the last several years has finally culminated into this article, this declaration of my love/hate relationship.  I love mediocre food.

After a long week of cooking every meal, maybe going out to a good restaurant, and eating food that is generally good, my relationship with food goes dark and I reach for a distraction.  It’s hard to explain exactly why, but sometimes I feel the undeniable pull of a gas station hotdog or an assortment of greasy Waffle House treats.  I know that they are bad for me, I know that they are unhealthy, I know that the enjoyment I’ll feel will always be followed by guilt, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  What is it about mediocre food that pulls us in?  Why do we feel the need to drive late night to eat a taco we never would have eaten only hours earlier?

The first thing I think of is the need for time away from the world.  The most common time I find myself in a booth at the local “I don’t know how this place stays in business” diner is late at night after a long drive to clear my head.  My body craves for more time to think and sort out my life, but needs to have a low impact activity.  Enter:  Diner.  After parking in that pseudo leather seat and placing my order I know that I won’t be bothered.  The restaurant is empty at this time of night and makes me wonder why exactly they stay open 24 hours a day.  Maybe it’s done as a service to the drunk and the deep in thought.  After the meal my mind has been made up and I am ready to once again face the real world.  That pancake, bacon, and egg combo is completely forgotten, as if I never ate it in the first place.  But I am able to return home and sleep in peace, my mind clear and my stomach full.

Next, I think of comfort.  Many of the foods we eat on a regular basis have some sort of tie to our past.  Here’s an easy mac n cheeseexample:  Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  While mixing the concoction over a heated stove you know for a fact that you are getting a sub-par meal.  The pasta is low quality, the amount of butter seems so hefty you have to read the instructions a second time, and the addition of neon orange powdered cheese are all pretty big indicators of what is to come.  Yet it is rare to find someone who ate mac & cheese as a child who doesn’t still open a blue box from time to time.  Why?  Our memories of better times, when things were simple and many of your actions were inconsequential, are tied to the contents of that box.  When a time machine can be made out of pasta, milk, butter, and dehydrated cheese, the appeal to go back is just too strong for most of us to resist.  Sure we may have now improved upon the recipe, higher quality cheese, better pasta, baking to form a nice browned crust on top, but the draw of the original is always there.

Lastly, sometimes the mood is just right.  Drunk food is starting to become an industry all its own.  Food carts and small stands are staying open late to give victims of last call a place to sop up the alcohol and relive the adventures that were tacohad in the hours prior.  Sometimes you just feel like you need to eat, and when you NEED to eat the quality of food takes a back seat.  In fact, I believe that many people have moments when they would rather have a greasy burger over a medium rare steak.  For some of us the sensation happens more than others, but we all have that same feeling.  When the urge hits me, greasy tacos or a spicy sausage are my weapons of choice in a war against ending the night on a low note.  I can’t complain, so far I have a 100% success rate.

So we enjoy mediocre food over great food from time to time, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  If you need to work out some thoughts, go back to a simpler time, or end your night with a bang, run out and grab whatever sounds good.  Sometimes we all need a little affair in our culinary relationships.


What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?  Let us know in the comments!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

231 thoughts on “Our Love Affair With Mediocre Food

  1. French fries! Definitely fries! I can’t resist the thought or the smell of it when I enter a fast food chain. It’s way too irresistible, and I won’t be surprised if I get a heart attack one of these days from all the grease. :/ But I don’t get why or how I can’t just ignore fries (and other mediocre food in general)? I’m guessing it’s because I’m way too lazy to wait for fancy food to get served in a restaurant. But, whatever. I guess I’m guilty for having this love affair with mediocre food too. Not that I’m ashamed. I honestly feel like I’m proud of it.

  2. I love eating “drunk food” in foreign places. It seems that where ever there is food, there is a local list of delicacies that are easily obtained by the late night swillers. Banana roti in Thailand and Laos, Izakaya in Japan, here in New Zealand, it’s a kebab or a horrible service station pie.

  3. smileycook says:

    I have to say I myself have asked these very same questions, and you have made some very interesting and true points! A lot of our memories with food come from good times or what have you. Greasy pizza from an awesome night of fun with friends, to the Mc’Donald’s runs after a long night at a club are fun memories. But as I am getting older nothing beats delicious home cooked meals made from mom or myself, or a awesome restaurant that prides in fresh and delicious food! Awesome post 🙂

  4. I love mac and cheese. SO SO good!!

  5. Mac and cheese! My wife and I will open the blue box for breakfast now and then, it has medicinal properties! I also indulge in the occasional maple bar or sausage egg McMuffin.

  6. samokan says:

    I make my own greasy food now, to lessen the guilt 🙂

  7. In the Uk you can’t beat a pie and chips (or better still potato fritters) with mushy peas as drunk food. Abroad, anything goes. I developed a liking for chicken gizzard satay in Thailand.
    who cares? You’re drunk.
    But I’m horrified at the macaroni cheese in a box. Even I wouldn’t stoop that low however far gone I was. But you’re right. Every American I know hankers after the stuff from time to time. Beyond me.

  8. French fries or any form of potato really.

  9. Sharon K. says:

    Great post. But, how about embracing our passion for these occasional indulgences rather than feel shame and embarrassment? To hell with the food judgers! Eat that Kraft macaroni and cheese (try adding a can of tuna, a handful of baby frozen peas and a healthy dollop of real mayo) and enjoy!

  10. Late night pizza is my vice

  11. Mr. Wapojif says:

    I demand FAST FOOD! Actually it tastes good but it is the most utterly repugnant thing when you think about it. McDonald’s et al should all burn! Hahahahah!

  12. mgchance says:

    Mac and Cheese, Taco Bell, and pizza.

  13. Kate Andrews says:

    Sugary kids cereal and not so sugary: honey nut cherios, frozted bite size mini wheats, raisin bran…..cant live without them!!!

  14. Diner french toast swimming in syrup while I’m just sober enough to enjoy it! my guilty pleasure defined.

  15. I love Kraft dinner. But I tried to find a healthier version of the mac and cheese and I switched to Annie’s mac and cheese. I feel less guilty eating it!

  16. I’m an expat in Singapore and for whatever reason, food I would avoid in the US now looks delicious. And I eat it. Being homesick, I can’t resist Garrett’s cheese popcorn, the large size. Oh, and I’ve eaten two packages of box mac-and-cheese in six months, after not touching the stuff for decades!

  17. My drunk dominos pizza craving is terrible its like the little devil on my shoulder always wins.

    Cheesy chips is also yummyyyy, this stodgy, unattractive pile of carny mess is far from fine dining but its too good. I dont go as far as to use the gross american cheese that comes out of the bottle, its still mature chedder or red leicester all the way…its just too good.

  18. Samantha says:

    Kraft Mac & Cheese all the way. I almost never get a chance to eat it, only when I have my neice and nephews over, but I love it so much. (The picture is actually why I clicked on this post 😉 I mean, I think as a society we have kind of given way to “easy” or mediocre foods, which isn’t terrible, but I think it is something we should definitely keep an eye on. The world is getting fatter and fatter, and the processed food industry is getting richer and richer.

    There is something to be said about good, wholesome food that you are preparing yourself versus all the additives in junk food. However, there will always be a place in everyone’s heart for “drunk” food or since I don’t drink, food runs after 1 a.m. Gotta love those late night diner runs. 😛

  19. jecarl10 says:

    I feel it’s easy to get “comfortable” with mediocre food such as (my guilty food pleasure) cheese sticks/curds. It’s something our society has fallen back on when we get lazy and don’t feel the need to eat healthy. Another factor in my opinion is the accessibility and speed to which mediocre food is delivered. To eat healthy you normally have to spend more money on the products you want to eat, while pizza rolls and french fries are quick to make without hassle.

    I would have to say I am also a victim to this problem and this post has opened my eyes to it. I believe it takes motivation to get back on the track of eating home cooked meals more often instead of running out to McDonalds every other night.

  20. shadowmousey says:

    Oh god, now I’m craving Kraft dinner. My favorites? A giant Boloco burrito with habanero sauce, chili cheese fries, or mozzarella sticks. Time to go eat a pear and summon all my accumulated stubborn, lol.

  21. kelly b says:


  22. I cook 3 meals a day, fresh foods, with 4-5 colors showing. It makes going out to eat on occasion almost painful for other people. I am always remarking how others have no idea what real food is supposed to taste like. I really need to develop these bad food habits so I don’t appear as antisocial. I think I’ll start with glazed donuts.

  23. kuhniverse says:

    CHIPS! Seriously, I have a problem with chips. And I’ve cream. And candy. French fries. Cupcakes. The list goes on. For me it’s probably more because I haven’t yet forced myself to grow up in terms of diet. I give myself until I’m

  24. swimmersbun says:

    somehow that cheap, grocery store, freezer-burned sherbet found in the fluorescent lit grocery store aisle has turned into a preference over good, old-fashioned ice cream. what has come of this world?

  25. Definitely— I usually don’t like unhealthy food but diners are my weak spot. Oh how I love a crappy cup of coffee and scrambled eggs. It makes me feel like Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

  26. Been there. I do love a fat cheese burger from the catering van outside the bar when I’ve had a few too many. It always tastes like food of the gods, but I’m never sure if its because of the alcohol or because it’s actually just delicious…as I’ve never consumed one sober. Hmm.

  27. jenn c. says:

    burgers, chip and dip and cheetos. heh 🙂

  28. endlessencounters says:

    All this article did was make me want some mac and cheese. Haven’t had it in SUCH a long time!!!

    • femforchangenow says:

      Me too! The sad thing is I’m lactose intolerant and haven’t found a good substitute. But I remember how good it was!

  29. femforchangenow says:

    In high school and just after, my late night fix was always sated by Denny’s french toast, even though I felt not only guilty but a little bit nauseated after (turns out I’m lactose intolerant-it wasn’t ill-cooked food). But now my guilty greasy food pleasure is always cheap Chinese food. There’s a place not far from my grandmother’s house and every time I visit her, I stop by to get shrimp or chicken lo mein, even if it’s just take out.

  30. boardeddoors says:

    “the local “I don’t know how this place stays in business” diner”

    I love this place, I go their often and it never disappoints 🙂

  31. Mac and cheese all day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. aliribs says:

    I crave (and eat) that stuff in early stages of pregnancy. Lucky little foetus!

  33. can’t live without them:))

  34. charferg says:

    Chips, cheese and gravy is a definite drunken vice. I blame my Northern English roots! The combination is glorious though.

  35. tn84 says:

    I cave to mediocre food all the time, there is something about below par food that’s just good enough for me. lol I haven’t met a french fry I didn’t like. :\

  36. jaclyndoyle says:

    Just stumbled upon this blog now, looks great

  37. […] Twinkie’s dance with death revealed was a common nostalgia for that truly American great uniter: the junk food of our youths. When word is that sugar is the new tobacco all the tears shed for the Twinkie seem a little odd. […]

  38. socialshan says:

    Definitely french fries. I never let myself have them, then my boyfriend orders them when we are out and offers me some…they disappear so quickly. Just one bite and I’m hooked.

  39. Love this post! I feel the same way. Highlights on my list include mac and cheese, beans and wieners and mini frozen pizzas. Shameful!

  40. gatorcote says:

    Ice cream is what I want every night! I love the cold and creaminess. I did find a healthy alternative though. If you put a banana in the freezer and let it freeze, put it in a blender with some vanilla extract until it’s the consistence you like. It is good! You can put whatever you want with it.

  41. pennyfields says:

    Fish and chips definitely! With scraps as well so that I’m practically drowning in batter and with the amount of salt and vinegar I put on it is practically a heart attack on plate.

  42. lsurrett2 says:

    Hmm Waffle House hashbrowns, scattered, smothered, and covered!

  43. Every Mother’s Day we pile into the car and take a beautiful car ride to a place of Mediocre Food. I think we chose this place because of its beautiful location, but everyone loves the cafeteria style, tray toting experience. AND upon reading the title of this post, I ran into the kitchen for cheese puffs. It was a theme.

Leave a Reply to femforchangenow Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: