What’s the saddest meal you’ve eaten?

Illustration for article titled What’s the saddest meal you’ve eaten?
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz (iStock)

Sad desk lunch is sad. Why? Not just because most of us can only dream of those artfully arranged bento boxes (“Welp, Jimmy John’s it is, again”) but because the environment is sad: fluorescent lights, the smell of industrial carpet cleaner, crusty communal microwaves. Sad meals are not just about what’s on the plate, but where you’re eating, the circumstances, the pathetic environs.


In that spirit, what’s the saddest meal you’ve ever eaten? Birthday dinner in a Greyhound bus terminal? Hospital cafeteria? We really hope not but… prison food? Share in the judgment-free zone that is our comment section, and we’ll even break the ice by sharing our own.

I paid $18 for the worst hummus wrap of my life

This story is pathetic on a few levels. First, the actual food: a hummus wrap from the Wolfgang Puck Express in Denver International Airport’s B concourse that tasted like wet sand except less flavorful. There was nothing on the wrap besides the thinnest smear of flavorless hummus, plus a couple limp pieces of mixed greens, and two sliced olives. Two.

Second, there are the circumstances: I originally only had something like a 40-minute layover to stuff some dinner in my face, so I chose Wolfgang Puck based solely on the “Express” in its name and the fact that there was no one in line. Hummus wraps are probably premade, I figured, surely this wouldn’t take long. Once I rushed back to the gate with my wrap, the display flashed: Delayed. Motherfuckers.

Third, the price tag: $18 for the hummus wrap and a Snapple. I hold you personally responsible, Wolfgang. [Kate Bernot]

Unhelpful Hamburger Helper

On one of my earliest Boy Scout outings—I must have been 12 or 13—I was tasked with cooking the food for my particular group of five boys. Hamburger Helper seemed liked an easy-enough and hearty meal to feed a troop of growing lads, so that was to be my dinner one night. Unfortunately for me, who didn’t understand frozen meats kept frozen in a cooler, the ground beef remained an iced meat block even as dinnertime approached. We had been hiking all day, and my group was pissed.


The sad part wasn’t just we had hamburger-less Hamburger Helper, it was that I sat by the portable stove for half an hour, hopelessly trying to thaw this frozen ground beef block on a cheap skillet. The BTUs the stove gave off was like three Bic lighter’s worth of heat. That sad image was of me, using the side of a fork to scrape off films of grayed beef from the block, then trying to incorporate this meat scum into the noodles. I would leave the Boy Scouts soon after. [Kevin Pang]

All right, Takeout commentariat: Share your saddest food story with us below. No judgment.


Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.



Condiment sandwiches. Basically when I was in my early 20s and didn’t follow a budget, I could afford a loaf of bread, and sandwich meat on payday, and I tend to always make double/triple meat sandwiches. Cut to a week from payday, I’d blown my entire paycheck and still had a week of living. Obviously, ramon was a staple in my life, but I’d end up with 2/3 a loaf of bread in the fridge that I didn’t want it to go bad.

Mayo sandwiches were a staple because somehow I always had mayo. Mustard sandwiches were my first go to. Sometimes I would use both condiments (fancy!). Also, it was always at least 2, as I would hold out until my stomach was super rumbling. So basically a sandwich, hold the fillings I couldn't afford. You would have though I would have learned and eventually bought peanut butter and jelly.

Another sad meal habit from my 20s, soup or ravioli straight from the can (a holdover from camping trips). Quick meal, saves on clean up! I might still do this occasionally. Yes, I know it’s not normal. Don't judge me monkey.