You Ate What?

Guilty pleasures—those stolen moments that feed our id. Whether it’s binge-watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians or adults secretly crushing on boy bands, guilty pleasures are like a dose of self-aware indulgence that keeps the day lively.

Guilty pleasures—those stolen moments that feed our id. Whether it’s binge-watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians or adults secretly crushing on boy bands, guilty pleasures are like a dose of self-aware indulgence that keeps the day lively.

Where are guilty pleasures more rampant than in the world of food cravings? Subverting instincts to eat organic or keep au courant with cuisine trends, guilty pleasures gleefully send an arrow into the dopamine target of the brain and bring a high usually reserved for the illict:

‘Yo, man, I got your fries, right here, hot and salty…can ya smell ‘em…the first one’s free but then ya gotta pay…tell your friends.’

Yeah, satisfying that salty jones, with greasy fingers and car full of that telltale smell is a guilty pleasure.

For me, I have two: chips and French onion dip and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Chips and dip are no joke—had a bad day, too many shots of Fireball? Chips and dip, right outta the white plastic container is a cure-all. Just stop before the bag is empty or you’ll be hit with debilitating chip belly in a couple of hours.

And Kraft mac and cheese—only Kraft, not some bullshit off-brand—cannot be matched in its taste and texture. The first time I ever made it was in a craptastic, low-ceilinged, basement apartment in some group house on campus. Sadly, I didn’t realize that one had to drain the water from the macaroni before adding the cheese powder (powder!), milk, and butter. Take it from me, no matter how long you let that watery mix boil, it will never cook down.

Since then, my mac and cheese game has improved. Various lovers over the years have added advice to the standard preparation—sliced hotdogs added even more salinity, while ketchup gave the dish some sweetness but made the bowl look like a crime scene.

Many guilty pleasures are leftovers from childhood. Mike Gallicchio, the Columbus Food Truck Festival maestro, remembers his grandmother introducing him to Chicken in a Biscuit crackers. “They’re my all-time fav,” he admitted. “I’ve been eating them since the beginning of time.”

“I will eat as many as there are in front of me, so I only buy one box at a time … I like to lick the seasoning right off of ’em.” Has he passed this on to his own kids? “My kids won’t touch [them],” he laughed. “Because they probably aren’t the best snack healthwise, but I don’t care about that…best snack in the galaxy…the ’hood galaxy.”

Initially The Commissary’s Kate Morrisey Djupe cracked that she “never feels guilty about [her] food.” She is very specific in her cravings: “I like Double Stuf Oreos, but only when one wafer has been removed and it must be with milk.”

“If you want a food I wish I didn’t think about as much as I do: McDonald’s fries…they are the right thickness to eat a lot at once—maybe I should feel guilty about how this looks—and saltiness. They also have the right ratio of soft and crunchy in an order.”

Ketchup? I wondered.

“Those fries need no condiments,” she added.

Chefs are surrounded by great ingredients, create artistic chow, and have an entire at their disposal. Yet, when questioned, Barcelona Executive Chef Jacob Hough says he favors Sour Patch Kids. “I always loved them as a kid,” he said. “I crave the sour taste.” Any particular color? “Red.”

Local food hype woman, Umami’s Shelley Mann goes regional with her guilty pleasure. “I love Skyline Chili Three-Ways more than I care to admit. You have to grow up with it. I grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs, and while we had Skyline locations out near my house, my best memories involve visiting the downtown locations. I used to beg to eat at Skyline whenever we’d venture downtown for a Reds or Bengals game, or visit the zoo, or go to the natural history museum at Union Terminal. It was the only restaurant ‘in the city’ we ever got to visit, and it seemed so big-city glamorous.”

“Now it just tastes like home to me. I get the bowl of spaghetti topped with chili and cheese. The real magic is the layer where the heat from the chili melts the bottom of the mountain of shredded cheddar. It’s amazing.”

And then there’s crazy Marcus Meacham of Kraft House No. 5. Meacham doesn’t do simple, outta the box/bag…he’s got to doctor up his guilty pleasure. “I was just talking about how I eat weird-ass shit when I’m home alone to my girlfriend,” he said. “Lately its been ramen ‘carbonara,’ ramen noodles drained, egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, sesame oil, soy sauce, Korean chili flakes, black garlic, tons of black pepper and bacon. Sounds weird, but right now it’s my shit. And most of the time I’m pounding a can of Mystic Mama … Dinner is served.”

“I guess the story behind it is having nothing else to make and loving Italian and Asian cuisine, and while at the same time insulting both with this concoction.”

As for the brand, it’s Top Ramen for life.

Guilty pleasures—everyone’s got ’em, only the brave share ’em.