It was during a post-Thanksgiving meal reverie that my cousin Stephanie posed the question. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, she said, what would it be?
Maybe it was the tryptophan talking. After all, the premise of the question is inherently unlikely. Why would you only eat one food?
Still, it is an intriguing thought, at least from an academic point of view (my cousin Stephanie is herself both intriguing and academic): If you were limited to just one food, what would you like it to be? If it helps, try imagining yourself on a desert island.
Stephanie had a ready answer to her own question (and at this point, I’m kind of hoping she never sees this column). If she were destined to eat just one food, she would want that food to be steak. Steak is reliable, she said, it never gets boring.
I leaned forward and opened my lips, poised to argue the contention. And then I stopped.
She has a good point. You really can’t go wrong with steak. It’s beefy, juicy, chewy. Even when it hasn’t been grilled it is full of the flavor of the great outdoors. And a little bit of external char makes the inside seem that much more tender. As the great philosopher Sam Elliott is fond of saying, it’s what’s for dinner.
My wife did not have to think long to come up with her answer. She definitively decided the one food she would not mind eating exclusively is bread. You could eat it toasted, she said, or with butter, or dipped into wine.
To my way of thinking, that is three different preparations and is therefore cheating. But I could not disagree with her too much. Bread is one of the necessities of life; few things are better than a good, fresh-baked loaf of crusty bread.
But man, or at least I, cannot live on bread alone. So I thought about the question longer and harder than it probably deserved. Remember, this was shortly after the Thanksgiving feast, and I was in the sleepy early stages of digestion. High-level thinking was not at my immediate command.
First, I considered lobster. I love lobster, I always have. On most days, if you ask me what my favorite food is, I would say lobster.
But then I realized that lobster every day would get very old, very fast. The same things that make lobster so delicious — the chewy-light texture, the rich flavor — are what would drive me crazy if I had to eat it more than a day or two in a row.
So my thoughts drifted, as they often do, to childhood. The essence of comfort food is that it is things we loved to eat as children. What better item to eat exclusively for the rest of our lives than something that soothed us as children?
I immediately thought of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with an eternal, undying passion. I love them so much, I can’t have peanut butter in the house because I know I would eat one every single day.
But then I realized that no, there is a food from childhood that I love even more than peanut butter and jelly. A food I ban from the pantry even more strictly than peanut butter. A food I know for certain I cannot have even one serving of because I would have to have two more servings. Every day, until the box ran out.
You can keep your steak and lobster, your tea-smoked duck and your mango curry. If I could eat only one food for the rest of my life, it would definitely be Cheerios.
Contact Daniel Neman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.