As a working adult with limited free time on my hands, there are few things I enjoy more on the weekend than spending a couple of hours in a cool, dark movie theater losing myself in the fun of a good movie. There are few things in my obviously lucky and first-world life that pack more of a stinging disappointment than a flat-out bad movie. When I walk out of my local multiplex, blinking against the harsh light of both reality and crappy fluorescents, all I want is to get my time and money back. But since neither is an option, I instead console myself with a healthy (read: not healthy) dose of comfort food. As we rush headlong into the summer movie season, filled to the brim with movies both amazing and not-so, I share with you some of the best comfort foods out there to help you come to terms with your own cinematic letdowns, whatever franchise sequel/adaptation/series starters they may be.
Mac & Cheese
One of the things that makes comfort foods so – well – comforting is that they can evoke the simple joys of childhood. It’s almost like your mom’s there to give you a warm hug and a heaping bowl of mac’n’cheese, that most iconic of comfort foods. Unfortunately, I don’t think any amount of mac’n’cheese could have saved Simon Wells’s Mars Needs Moms from losing over $130 million at the box office, but it can’t hurt the few – and I mean very few – of you who actually ponied up for the 2011 flop. Whether your mac of choice is boxed, frozen, or homemade, a bad movie can make you feel reckless enough to wreak havoc with the classic. The key is to not get too crazy – I’m looking at you, mac & cheese-stuffed meatloaf – and to instead try mixing in pan-fried chorizo for a slightly spicy alternative to bacon, or some wilted spinach for a healthy veneer.
Turkey Sandwich with Cheese, Bacon, Coleslaw and Fries
High in soporific tryptophan, turkey is the perfect protein to help you sleep soundly after a particularly upsetting movie experience, and slaying a giant sandwich can make you feel like you’ve restored order to your universe after watching something as enormously awful as, say, Jack the Giant Slayer. Go full-Pittsburgh and build an especially giant sandwich by throwing your coleslaw and fries right into the sandwich to make it a multilayered feast of perfection, and add some bacon – because you’re not a monster, are you? If you don’t have a heart attack, you’re guaranteed to sleep the sleep of someone who didn’t just drop $22 on the 3D IMAX bomb of the year. Recipe and photo by the Brown Eyed Baker. (This particular version uses pastrami, but feel free to substitute with turkey or your favorite sandwich meat. Fried chicken is also more than acceptable. Topping with an egg will make you a god among heathens.)
Peanut Butter & Jelly French Toast
Your favorite elementary school sandwich, now custard-battered, pan-friend, and topped with maple syrup. This is what we call “leveling up.” 2003’s Peter Pan may have lost nearly $70 million at the box office, but you can do your part to resurrect everyone’s favorite Lost Boy by using his namesake peanut butter in this brunch winner. Recipe & Photo by The Amateur Gourmet.
Grilled Cheese French Toast
If you’re craving more of a sweet-savory combo, this is absolutely the way to go – and it’s incredibly easy to make. The combination of creamy cheese, tart apple, and sweet maple syrup makes for a combination so delicious you’ll forget all about how badly your favorite superhero was just desecrated on screen (I’m looking at you, Daredevil). For a grilled cheese french toast with more of a bite, use a sharp cheddar or gruyere in place of the brie. Recipe here.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Hey, man. That movie effed with your life. You now have the right – no, the obligation – to buy or make your favorite chocolate chip cookies and go full ham on those sweet little bad boys. (And if you need a recipe, may I recommend starting here?)
Buffalo Chicken Wings
Hell hath no fury like a fanboy/-girl scorned, but crank the heat on these wings up as high as you can take it and cleanse thyself of thy demons. Watch me make them here.
Oatmeal ‘Spider Web’ Cookies
Presumably no one has ever felt worse after burying their sorrows in a heap of cookie crumbs, and the vaguely spider-web-like shape of these perfectly caramelized cookies should sling you right out of even the deepest depths of cinematically-induced despair. Recipe here.
Nachos are great. We all know that. And Cowboys & Aliens should have fortified both sci-fi and westerns, like these tots fortify regular old nachos, but fell sadly short of pretty much everyone’s mark. So when your comfort food needs to pack an extra whumpf, only a base of crisped-to-greasy-perfection tater tots will do for your cheese-y, salsa-y indulgence. Let certifiable food god J. Kenji Lopez-Alt show you the way.
Pay more respect to Japanese culture than last year’s 47 Ronin did with your own interpretation of ramen. Ramen is the right choice pretty much anytime, but especially when your body just needs meat and carbs without cheese. A silky, long-simmered ramen broth is like a warm hug from your mom. Pass right by the 37¢ packet of ramen in the supermarket and, instead, make your own. SteamyKitchen has a good base recipe, but I’ve made perfectly adequate ramen out of chicken stock, noodles, and random leftover vegetables and shredded chicken. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
“What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” This factually incorrect line, delivered by Arnold Schwarzenneger as Mr. Freeze in Joel Schumacher’s eye-meltingly bad Batman & Robin leads us to the final, and perhaps most soothing, of the bad-movie-comfort-foods. You know you have a favorite flavor. Go get a pint. Eat it. Figure out what movie you’re going to see next weekend, and hopefully you won’t be back to consult this list a second time – though, like the best of comfort foods, it’ll be there for you when you need it most.