Macaroni and cheese from the box, preferably Kraft but Annie’s will do, is for 4:00 pm during a vicious, all-day hangover.
A chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked in chicken broth, served over jasmine rice topped with slices of lemon peel and chopped scallions, seasoned to taste with soy sauce, is for colds but also for recovery after a flu.
Plain white rice with soy sauce is for comfort, fried rice with cheap sweet and sour sauce is for nostalgia.
Buttermilk pie is for dreamers.
A burger with secret special sauce, loaded with a little extra pastrami, and a side of seasoned fries is for an afternoon on a highway overlooking a beach surrounded by multi-million dollar houses.
Hippie stir-fry and tofu stroganoff are for memories.
Wild boar in red wine sauce is for a first date, especially a first date more memorable for the food than the companionship.
Fritos dipped in Tostitos cheese sauce are for very private consumption.
Fresh tomato sauce made with dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes and fragrant basil, tossed with campanelle and freshly grated cheese, is for the weeks after the industrial taste of months of chemotherapy has finally begun to recede.
Milkshakes are for breakfast.
A Chicago hot dog is for the moments immediately before leaving for the airport, for wishing the fancy meals had been as happy as that beautiful mess piled high in a bun.
Dim sum is for joy.
A Del Taco bean and cheese burrito is for immediately after the bar closes, make sure to get crinkle cut fries and extra sauce packets.
Oysters are for lazy afternoons playing hooky somewhere up the coast.
Piadine straight from the kitchen, the pizza dough hot and pliant and piled with a fragrant salad, is for thinking things will last forever.
Himalayan malai kofta is for cackling laughter and not caring at all what anyone else thinks.
Chocolate cake layered and frosted to look like a giant Hostess cupcake, complete with vanilla creme in the middle, is for birthdays memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Tacos are for sitting on a curb in the warm darkness, wishing for extra napkins but not caring enough about face or hands or jeans to get up and get some.
Pizza is for always.
Egg papardelle with radicchio in bagna cauda is for hoping the right person will eventually come along.
Roast chicken is not for engagement but for tearing apart while it’s still in the pan.
Toast with butter is for love.