Life

People Sent Us Photos of Their Go-To Existential Dread Meals

Cooking a proper meal every day is long and tedious, especially when you are consumed by The Fear.
October 19, 2020, 1:00pm
Existential Dread Meals Pandemic Fast Food Junk
All photos courtesy of interviewees

Existential dread is very in right now. You only need to wake each morning to feel The Fear – emerging from a restless slumber to find that, boom: Four Very Bad Things Happened While You Were Asleep, and also: The Opinions About The Bad Things Are Almost As Bad – If Not Worse – Than The Things Themselves.

In times of comfort, many of us turn to food. Of course, we all want the flavour and sustenance that an UberEats affords, but we can’t all afford it, can we, so we have to make do with what we have.

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With that in mind, we asked you to send in your go-to Existential Dread Meals. Here are the cursed results.

RICE CAKE WITH MELTED VEGAN CHEESE AND HOT SAUCE

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Sammy, 24, makes this meal “because it’s like a grilled cheese, which was a comfort food when I was young, but I can microwave it instead of actually cooking it.”

Let’s start by appreciating how far vegan cheese has come. There was a time, in the recent past, when microwaved vegan cheddar would have simply refused to melt. The lack of research into vegan dairy alternatives at the time meant that, no matter the temperature, the cheese would have come out glistening with sweat, and remained structurally sound. Therefore, the fact that this beige “cheeze” has melted at all is a feat in itself.

As for the composition of the meal: top marks for textural variation and presentation, and the hot sauce is a nice touch (Sammy says “the hot sauce reminds me that I’m still alive”.)

POTATO WAFFLES FLOATING IN GRAVY

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Alex, 21, sent this meal in with the caption, “High sodium, high reward.” It is difficult to argue with this logic. When you are eating food with an alarmingly high salt content, you are not doing it to heal emotional wounds (see: chocolate) or because you are supposed to (see: veg). You are doing it to satisfy a primal, blood-pressure-increasing urge.

“I make this meal because it’s comforting, as potato waffles were a childhood favourite,” says Alex, “and the gravy is warming and comfy and nice.”

It’s undeniable that from a purely comfort-and-salt-based standpoint, the dish is a winner. The issues come with its practicalities: for example, what is the plan with regards to this being eaten in bed, an essential part of the Quarantine Dread Dining experience? And what’s going to happen to the waffles once they have been submerged in gravy for too long? Important questions that need answering, Alex.

SWEETCORN, WALNUTS AND HERBAL TEA

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Moving gracefully from one side of the flavour/texture spectrum to the other: An Existential Smorgasbord, and the lockdown dread meal of choice for Anna, 29.

It’s important to note the sheer joy of selecting two snacks and alternating between them, like the rat from Ratatouille eating cheese and strawberries at the same time, adding a sense of luxury – nay, royalty – to any (bedside) table. Why Anna chose walnuts and sweetcorn specifically I’ll never know, but I do know that sweetness is only ever improved by crunch, so top marks there.

PIZZA DIPPED IN SUPER NOODLES

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Look at this image and tell me you do not want to climb inside the mind of its creator. Sophia, 27 – who cites this as her go-to Existential Dread meal – has shown us all up in terms of ingenuity. “I make a frozen pizza and instant noodles,” she explains, generously, “and use the noodles as the dip and the pizza as the nacho, as depicted.”

You have to admire Sophia’s boldness. She really woke up one morning and thought, ‘I may be quarantined and unable to leave my home. And yes, I may lack the energy to cook from scratch, but my god I am going to live today. I am going to squeeze the life – and the MSG – out of this day, until not one drop remains, and I am going to do it all from the comfort of my sofa.’

BLACK COFFEE WITH CUCUMBER, UNDISCLOSED MEAT DISC AND VARIOUS CONDIMENTS

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This image was sent in anonymously, with no description. I have tried to show empathy while judging these meals. I have put myself in your shoes – the Dread shoes, which I have worn many, many times myself – and tried to be kind. But this meal has sent me over the edge.

How is the meat disc going to be eaten? If – and I have a feeling this is the case – it is to be rolled up and eaten by hand like a hot dog, what is the contingency plan for when the meat grease gets all over your fingers and then the handle of the coffee mug? If there is not a baby wipe on call for such an occasion, you’re looking at a serious risk of the coffee mug slipping and spilling all over you. This has happened to me more times than I care to recall.

TUNA MAYO FROM THE CAN

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“This is so cursed,” said Jade, 23, of her go-to Existential Dread meal. I would argue, however, that it is quite the opposite of “cursed” – and is in fact a feat of genius.

Tinned food is good because it’s cheap and lasts for fucking ages, but also: each container doubles up as an eating receptacle. When you are consumed by The Fear, the only thing worse than the prospect of cooking is the prospect of washing up, which this person has eliminated the need for entirely.

You may judge the image you see before you, but I am asking you to reconsider: what more than this do you actually need? Seasoning? A bowl? Carbohydrates? Please. We are living through an unbelievably mentally taxing pandemic, and from difficult times comes beauty. This, right here, is the beauty.

@ionaeee