There’s a famous psychological experiment called The Marshmallow Test, in which researchers gave children between the ages of four and six a marshmallow. If the kids chose to wait, they’d receive more marshmallows for their patience. The late-1980s test concluded that the ability to delay gratification predicted success in life later on. It’s since been largely debunked by repeat experiments, so we say carpe diem and eat your marshmallow whenever you want.
But undoubtedly there’s psychology involved in the way we eat, and especially the order in which we eat things. Say you’re staring at a plate of lasagna and green beans. Do you get the green beans out of the way first and then savor the cheesy lasagna, or eat the lasagna with alternating bites of green beans? Maybe just feed the green beans to the dogs? The Takeout writers will reveal our eating-order habits, and you can make of them what you will, Freud.
When I ate Lucky Charm as a kid—which was tragically a rare occurence—it was an experience to be savored. I carefully set aside every single marshmallow from my bowl before adding milk, then organized the marshmallows by shape: hearts, stars, horseshoes, etc. I ate my sad soggy oats first, then slowly crunched each dry marshmallow one at a time in my mouth. Weird and overly fastidious for sure, but hey, I think I turned out alright. I still do this with certain dishes: Eat the undesirables first, then slowly linger over the good bits. —Kate Bernot, managing editor
In theory, I would be the kid who holds onto the marshmallow. But that’s because the marshmallow experiment was in a controlled setting, and as a child, I was very afraid of authority. Also at that time I had an elaborate strategy for eating M&Ms, which involved sorting them by color and eating them in a very specific order that always ended with green because they were my favorite and because some kid at camp told me that green M&Ms are lucky and you should make a wish on the last one. (I still do this occasionally.) But now, in a regular situation when I have a plate full of, say, lasagna and green beans, I will devour the lasagna because I like it better and slowly pick at the green beans because I like them less, and I will hope no one notices. —Aimee Levitt, associate editor
I do not understand why, when we possess something beautiful, our instinct is to save it for a special moment. I think of my grandmother’s delicate set of china she ate off maybe only once or twice, or the exquisite jewelry she hid away in her safety deposit box because it was that “too nice” to wear and, consequently, look at at all. I think this is something we’re all conditioned to do; we save things for a special occasions, because outside of those, the rest of our lives are pathetically ordinary. Know why they’re ordinary? Because we don’t do anything special ever! We’re always putting things off, saving them for some other time when we think we’ll deserve it more. Well screw that, I’m not saving anything for later. I am living in the moment, eating things as my soul cries out for them. I’m not leaving things to chance, waiting for the right moment to indulge my whims and finding what I’d longed for has now become soggy or ravaged by the passage of time in some other absolutely tragic way. Carpe diem, carpe diet. Trust yourself, and remember that you deserve to have nice things. — Allison Robicelli, staff writer