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Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

On your plate

You’ve just gotten back from a massive house party, it’s 3:43 a.m., and you’re only now beginning to realize that you haven’t eaten since 3:43 p.m. Yeah, you drank massive amounts of alcohol on an empty stomach, but that can’t be helped at this point. At least you didn’t end up praying to the porcelain god tonight, right? Well, the night isn’t over yet.

Now your addled, hazy mind is presented with another make-or-break decision. Should you haphazardly throw together a dilapidated mish mosh of foodstuffs extracted from the nethermost regions of your fridge? Or should you opt for the slightly easier, albeit costlier, route of swinging by the local McJack in the King for your “drunchie” fix — who the fuck invented the word drunchies anyway? One could argue that the food in your fridge cost you money, but those are simply sunk costs; as in you won’t get the money back regardless of whether you eat that food or not, so you may as well eat it, if able.

In the aforementioned case, it’s probably a better idea to get yourself the fast food, assuming you’re capable of getting your ass over there. If not, then you’ll probably end up making something along the lines of raw broccoli florets with a half cooked runny egg on a soggy piece of toast garnished with some flavorless ramen.

Alas, it probably isn’t the case that you’re out getting hammered every night, so there will be days when it isn’t such a great idea to be eating out. As my venerable father always put it, “You never know what they put in your food at restaurants, so it’s always best to make your own food.” And of course, you’ll probably save some dough. Even big ballers like to save money where they can, right?

When I cook, I just cook for myself. I know that some of you guys out there have got some intricate roommate-meal-sharing type deal going on. And others have got dining hall swipes. That’s all fine and dandy. But for the rest of you, if you’ve ever cooked a meal for you to eat by yourself — not ramen or a fucking ham sandwich — then you should know the struggles that come along with it.

I tried to make a burger the other day. Sounds simple enough, right? I mean, the fine folks over at Burger King can pop those bad boys out in less than five minutes, lickity split. I get to it with a fine gusto, and I quickly realize that there’s a lot more prep work involved than I thought. For one thing, all my accoutrements are in their natural, God-given forms. My lettuce isn’t leafed, my onions aren’t sliced (let alone chopped) and my beef is just a pink, unctuous paste.

Not to mention the fact that after prepping my ingredients, I’d still have to put them together in a cohesive manner. To top it all off, after the 30 to 35 minutes of preparing the food and the three to five minutes of frenzied, frantic eating comes the most dreaded part of the entire ordeal: doing the dishes.

In my case, I’d have a cutting board, knives, a plate, a pan and miscellaneous utensils that would need to be cleaned afterward, and I’m not living under mama’s roof anymore so I can’t expect the dishes to be lovingly cleaned and scrubbed of my disgusting detritus come dawn.

The whole affair will run me about an hour in total, and if you take that and multiply by three for the number of meals you’ve got to eat in a day, and then by seven for the days in the week, you’re going to get a total of 21 hours spent on eating/making food. Quoting the late and great Benny Franklin himself, “Time is money.” In economics, we call it opportunity cost.

So how does one strike the balance between saving time and saving money? My philosophy is that I don’t mind eating out once in a while, but only by keeping the following two reasons in mind: convenience and enjoyment. If I’ve got 30 minutes between now and my next class and my stomach is rumbling up a storm, then I’m going to swing by the nearest food-serving receptacle and sate my hunger. Also, if I’ve got friends that want to eat out and have a good time, then I’ll oblige and would also be willing to splurge a little more than I would on a solo meal.

And for anything and everything else, just eat in! It doesn’t have to be anything involved like a foie gras-stuffed steak tartare confit with braised figs and an elderberry aioli. It can just be a simple sandwich or some cereal. Your wallet will appreciate it, and you can save up towards that Drake concert later in the year.

ANDREW POH would like to know what your easiest to make/best/most affordable food options are, so please let him know at apoh@ucdavis.edu.


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