I like to think I have good taste—literally. I love food, as my mild girth will attest to, and between my dad’s frequent culinary experiments and my own burgeoning kitchen creativity (emphasis on the “burgeoning”) I’ve developed a healthy respect for sustenance done right. However, I’m also in my early twenties, a year and a half out of university and basically poor, so between homemade butter chicken and lavish amounts of penne noodles I’m apt to stuff myself full of the worst “food” imaginable. And I love it. The following dishes make me feel genuine remorse, as if I’ve actually killed a part of myself, but Goddamn I love them so.
Taco Bell’s Chili Cheese Burrito
Unbeknownst to the general public, Taco Bell’s chili cheese burrito was originally devised as the first ever edible weapon by the US Special Forces psychological warfare division. Every bite reminds you of the children starving in sub-Saharan Africa and the myriad conflicts waged in the Balkans. It is an intestinal war crime. Guilt and methane gas are its primary output, actual nutrition being such a distant second you’d be better off getting your daily requirement of vitamins and nutrients by wrapping your lips around an exhaust pipe and having your friend switch on the ignition.
But it tastes good. So, so good. And how could it not? It’s a homogenous mixture of ground “beef” and cheddar cheese, spiced up with the mildest of spicy sauces and sealed hermetically inside a tortilla, the second greatest form of bread after naan. And Taco Bell is so certain you’ll ask for another that every chili cheese burrito combo comes with two of those limp Tex-Mex phalli. God bless the fast food industry.
Dr. Oetker’s Casa di Mama Pepperoni Pizza
Having both lived off-campus while attending university and worked (well, still working) a minimum wage job, my knowledge of the various brands of grocery store-bought frozen pizza can be described as intimate. Over the course of six years I have determined that the best, ready-to-eat frozen pizza falls under Dr. Oetker’s Casa di Mama sub-brand. It might seem odd that I should list this pizza here, given its quality (seriously, it’s better than anything at The Grand in the ByWard Market, which is saying something), but every bite taken from it is a constant reminder that I’m a cheap, lazy bastard who could be making food himself. Though on occasion I’ll eat it too fast and singe off the roof of my mouth, so there’s a small amount of penance involved.
Fuck yes. Screw Super Size Me. I've never seen it, but screw it anyway. McDonald's is my eternal contingency. You'll likely find me there at two or three in the morning when I'm suffering from a particularly potent case of insomnia, and the workers at my local establishment have apathetically served me artery-clogging, heart-destroying excuses for food when I most needed it.
Give me a double quarter pounding dripping with cheese, ketchup and grease, or a box of chicken McNuggets. Spare me the details of their creation or objective unhealthiness. 3AM Daniel is beyond caring. Just give me something to shove down my gullet when my mental faculties are impaired by delayed fatigue. I'll shove it into my maw and wash it down with the closest, sweetest caffeine-free drink (I'm trying to fall asleep, remember). I can take the shame.
Hot dogs, if you don't already know, are arguably edible tubes filled with animal by-products, tied off like lengthy belly buttons and served to people without any legal recourse. And I hope they never get banned. That is all.
A few of my closest compatriots have been kind enough to uncover repressed memories and discuss their favourite shame foods.
Patrick Fenn, co-worker
“Breakfast poutine, a glorious concoctions [sic] of home fries (king of breakfast foods), cheese, and hollandaise sauce. Cholesterol IV drip because it may as well go straight to your veins. [It] remains heavenly, if disgusting. Shame[ful] because you know how completely awful it is for you.”
Matthew Carson, co-worker
“Oh Pizza Shark, you dirty, dried out, rubbery, tasteless piece of pizza. To most, the idea of eating something like this just seems insulting to their taste buds but for me, it's all about true nostalgia and good memories. The first time I had this "famous" Ottawa pizza was back in 2010 when a close friend of mine, Jon, and I were hanging out playing some good ol' Smash Bros. My usual choice of cheese pizza 241 (2 for 1) was not available in Ottawa as it was my customary late night Smash pizza while I was living in Peterborough thus Jon suggests Pizza Shark. Sadly during this time, let's just say I was not at my best, my train of thought was even more erratic than it is now, and these Smash nights were and still are one of the things that brings some extreme joy to my life as nothing beats good friends.
“As we sit and continue to fight back and forth we decide to smoke a joint and thus order the pizza. Now when that pizza finally arrives in its bland, typical, non-distinguishing white cardboard box, my first thought goes back to when I was in grade school. By the time I was in grade 2 I had to make my own lunches and being the lazy boy that I was I would often not even make a lunch and rely heavily on the small 250 ml of milk I would get as my lunch. That meant when Friday would come around, my little child heart would fill with excitement, not just because it was pizza day but because it meant that I would have a lunch without having to do any work for it. So as you can imagine that white cardboard box already had a positive association to it.
“So as Jon is laying down the pizza, my face is already filled with excitement. I grab that first glorious piece; the cheese stays perfectly still on top of the most basic dough. With the intense hunger settling in, I take my first bite and rip the entire piece of rubber off the top and just consume. Oh that shitty pizza how you remind me of the good young days, where responsibility is nil and worries are none. Now Jon and I continued and still do buy Pizza Shark on nights when we get together. It has gone from being a great nostalgic childhood memory to a being a reminder of great a friends. I do try to share this pizza with others when I can, but unfortunately not many have come to love it that way I do.”
Riley Byrne, proprietor of Justifiable Culturecide
“I am not a religious man. When I die, I am confident that I will continue to exist only in very detailed family trees and Google searches for churches in Chernobyl. However, there is something unholy about a large Smokes bacon poutine, and not only because I am sure it has the same consistency and taste as the Antichrist’s placenta. Objectively speaking, the world was a better place before it existed.
“Much like kissing your sister or texting your exes, ordering a large bacon poutine(which weighs about 2 pounds), is only something to be contemplated when staggeringly drunk and have exhausted all other avenues for warm, gooey companionship for the night. My friend and I once ordered large poutines at 3 in the afternoon and watched FUBAR. We were both in tears by the end. You need as much booze as possible to dull all the impending guilt.
“The shame in eating a Smokes poutine comes early in often, starting with the line you’ll stand in at three in the morning with a melting pot of inebriated club patrons, all of you collected from various walks of life into one spot, nervously waiting for a fix. Depending on your level of intoxication, you will either be too drunk to care about anything other than your order, or (depending on when you had your last drink) slowly sobering up and allowing waves of sadness and guilt wash over you as you wait for the only meal that could kill God. Look around you. Try to identify what clubs these sad husks came from. Remember the faces of the pretty ones. Remember you can never approach them in real life because of what they’re about to see you do. Does an excited man with a haircut from the mid-nineties and an argyle sweater vest want your spot in line? Let him have it. He is on coke and probably has a gun. Only listen to your iPod with one earbud so that you can hear the racial epitaphs and orders being announced. This is what methadone clinics next to bars are like. You’re an addict.
“You’re not going to eat the poutine at Smokes. You’re going to leave and mumble something about getting it home so that you and your girlfriend can split it while catching up on Parks and Rec. Try not to cry. You’ve only lost at life tonight, and most of tomorrow morning. Take a route home that avoids walking past any of your friends’ houses. You’ve just walked out of the Adults Only Mouth Pleasures store, so flip up your jacket collar and walk quickly with the poutine tucked under your arm. If you’re like me, your route home will involve some homeless shelters, so be prepared to hear how much some men equally as inebriated as you would like to fuck you in the ass. Don’t worry, they want to fuck everyone in the ass and won’t be offended if you walk by. They are the telemarketers of those dark corners under bridges; they’ll pressure you for a sale but you can leave anytime. Just about now you should remember how proud your parents were when you first started university. Think about how their financial assistance has made the last half hour possible.
“Getting home, immediately open up your poutine. Let it cool off for a few minutes. Allow the wafting aroma of bacon and gravy fill the air of your bachelor apartment. Snicker at how easy it was to fool the other patrons that you had someone waiting at home. Allow the snickering to cover up your stilted sobs. The cooling period is necessary so that you don’t have to stop midway through eating. You’re about to become something that isn’t necessarily human whilst wolfing down this poutine, and any pause could lead to soul-crushing reflection. Stream something funny on your laptop. This goes without saying, but COVER UP ANY MIRRORS AND REFRAIN FROM WATCHING ANYTHING WITH MICKEY ROURKE. In my experience, even glancing at either can cause me to remember all the horrible things I’ve ever done. Once you start, you must not stop until you are done or you have passed out. I once passed out on a futon with There Will Be Blood playing on a loop and an unopened poutine on my chest. Do not attempt to make a Facebook post about what you are doing, you’re far too drunk and, as evidenced by your 4th meal choice, not in a rational state of mind. When you’ve eaten everything that you can, place the box just out of reach of the bed. If you didn’t finish the whole poutine, don’t stay up for a second wind. It’s not coming.
“Don’t think you’re done with the poutine just because you made it through the night without choking on your own gravy. You drank way too much the night before, so you’re going to have drunk shits. However, the binding elements in the cheese curds are going to ensure a very firm stool that could devastate an unprepared toilet/anus. If you live with roommates, try to stumble to the bathroom before they awaken so they are not witness to the gastronomical distress signals emanating from the communal toilet. If you live alone (and
you probably live alone) I suggest the following playlist:
“‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ - Outkast (repeat until done).
“Not only will this show you have a sense of humour about the whole affair, but it will also muffle the death cries of your colon. Afterwards, go do the only thing you’ll have the energy to do: lie in the fetal position and start repressing memories.”