The worst part about cooking for yourself is portion control. It’s not that I’m incapable of cutting a recipe in half, it’s that I have no clue what I’m going to do with the remainder of the rapidly decaying cutlets pathetically lounging in their styrofoam tray, and that’s how you end up with 43 panko-parmesan chicken nuggets when to be quite honest a solid 11 would have sufficed the cravings for a snack that invoked a simpler time.
A lot of what I eat when I cook for myself falls into this comfort food arena: infinite amounts of Kraft macaroni and cheese, pasta dishes made with whimsical rotini twists though a more adult linguine would have sufficed, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, the grilled cheese sandwiches. I used to imagine that comfort food extended to anything rich and fattening – the types of things you know you shouldn’t be eating, but can’t stop yourself from ordering in the middle of the winter when even venturing across the street seems like a chore. But after more delivery ramen than I can count, I’ve realized that’s not the case. Comfort foods are those foods whose sense memory hurtles you back to when you were hovering around the threshold between childhood and puberty and subsisting on a diet of kid-approved foods was wholly acceptable, even if you didn’t wholly accept that you were still a kid.
It’s because of this that I make grilled cheese sandwiches a lot. The chicken nuggets, the mac and cheese, those all take special levels of effort that I’m unwilling to expend, largely because if I take that time, the ensuing minutes spent waiting for a rolling boil inevitably force me to face the fact that I’m not an adult in any of the ways that are important to me – that that blue box is indicative of so much more than just a marijuana-tempered desire to shovel processed cheese and complex carbohydrates into my face with reckless abandon. So yeah, I make grilled cheese sandwiches a lot.
As with all diminishing returns, the amount of joy those sandwiches invoke in me now is significantly lessened in comparison to when I used to grill two for myself in the early evenings of my senior year of high school, before rushing back to campus to cheerlead at varsity basketball games. In those days, and the ensuing college and post-college years, I could put away two grilled cheese sandwiches no problem, maybe even contemplate a third, before rushing off to wherever I was going. I was always going somewhere in those days because that’s what being young is, you’re like a shark, if you stop moving, you die.
But nowadays, putting away two sandwiches is significantly harder. One sandwich never leaves you feeling fully sated, but two sandwiches are half a sandwich too many, pushing you towards uncomfortably full as you try to wash down the remaining halves of butter-soaked bread. And even from a non-gustatory standpoint, two sandwiches are just too much. One grilled cheese sandwich, made sparingly in times of absolute hunger or emotional low points, is a good jump start to being comforted by food. It doesn’t bring you close enough to the finish line, but it’s a start. But get to that second sandwich and you’re just the person who hasn’t grown up in a lot of ways, culinary or otherwise.
I still haven’t mastered portion control in my eating for that reason, or boundaries in my life for similar reasons. But what I have figured out, even if I don’t know how to move past it: one grilled cheese is not enough, but two grilled cheese are too many.
Original by Beejoli Shah @beejoli