Dark times, dark recipes

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

Things have gotten a little dark, haven’t they? Not literally: The days themselves continue to lengthen jeeringly as things stay closed. We remain inside, cooped up in our houses and apartments. We mull over which well-worn path we’ll walk today, what board game will keep the kids distracted for more than 20 minutes and what we’ll find to eat in our ravaged kitchen cupboards.

But on social media, at least, it seems the world is taking advantage of time during the pandemic to better itself. Working out. Tackling home improvement projects. There’s a lot of cooking and crafting happening: Everyone’s a baker, everyone’s a farmer and even celebrities are now full-blown chefs. Shakespeare, it’s been said, took advantage of quarantine during the plague to … well. I don’t need to rub it in.

And then there are the rest of us — the benighted majority. Those who fully regress to their 12-year-old selves, eating things we’re not only not putting on Instagram but would, frankly, prefer not to discuss.

But they’re real. Below are some actual foods from my childhood, some of which I hadn’t thought about in many years but have found myself resorting to during quarantine. Dark times call for dark recipes.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles times )

Fun Milkshake

2 minutes. Serves 1.

A coffee mug
2 scoops of any ice cream

1. Put ice cream into a coffee mug. It’s extremely important that this be a coffee mug. It will not work otherwise.

2. Pour milk into mug until close to the brim.

3. Mash ice cream and milk with a spoon until it’s a milkshake.

4. Enjoy!


(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles times )



2 minutes. Serves 1.

The key to this next recipe is to over-microwave it. Kraft Parmesan, a.k.a. “shaky cheese,” doesn’t really melt properly, so you have to nuke the hell out of it. The result is a very stiff, chew-toy-like consistency that gets even worse as it cools off.

1 flour tortilla
Some Kraft Parmesan cheese

A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.

March 26, 2020

1. Sprinkle cheese into flour tortilla and fold it closed on both sides, as you would a wrap.

(It won’t work. The cheese is pebbly and grainy and will spill out everywhere. Try again.)

2. Having done your best, microwave it for around a minute, or however long you usually microwave things, and then do it for another 15 seconds.

3. Eat quickly.


Pasta Alla Tristezza

4 to 5 hours. Serves 1.


Good Seasons Italian dressing was a staple of the Peterson household growing up. You turn it into dressing by mixing the sachet of powder in a cruet with oil and vinegar. It’s honestly the best dressing you can purchase in a grocery store and is intended for salad, but I find the possibilities are endless.

Good Seasons Italian dressing mix

1. Take a nice, long nap. Consider whether you’re more hungry or more tired. If the former, grudgingly rise from your nap.

2. Think about when you last bathed and if it’s worth the effort anymore.

3. Spend 45 minutes online doing absolutely nothing at all. Literally nothing.

4. Make some spaghetti; drain.

5. If you haven’t already, make the Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix. Pour it onto the cooked pasta and toss. Sprinkle on some cheese if you have it. Eat.


(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles times )


45 seconds. Serves 1.


Oreo cookies
Peanut butter

1. Carefully unscrew the top of an Oreo cookie.

2. Remove the white filling and discard. Or save for later; do what you need to do.

3. Replace filling with layer of peanut butter and reseal. Eat; repeat.


Potato Friends

10 minutes. Serves 1

1 potato
Any cheese

1. Cut two long, thin slices out of the center of the potato, so you get a cross-section, like a Damien Hirst piece. They should be flat and thin, like the sole of a shoe. If your knife skills are bad, like mine, you will mess this part up.

2. Put some oil in a small pan and fry the two potato slices on one side until brown, then flip them over.

3. When the other side is almost done, put cheese onto one slice of potato, then put the other slice on top to make a sandwich. If you still believe in self-care, put hot sauce on it.


(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles times )

Special Marinara Soup

2 minutes. Serves 1.

A treat for special occasions. Also works for non-special occasions.

Jarred marinara sauce

1. Take the jar of marinara and pour some into a bowl.

2. Add a bunch of cheese. It really doesn’t matter what kind; it just matters that you add a lot.

3. Heat in microwave until hot.

4. Try to enjoy! You can dip bread in this if you have it, or a tortilla, but it’s good to go as-is.


(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles times )

The After-School Snack


1 minute. Serves 1.

I discovered the below sensational taste combination early on in life and have returned to it again and again. If you have ever liked Creamsicles or Orange Julius, you’ll love this!

Bowl of Cheerios
Orange Juice

1. Pour a bowl of Cheerios and add milk.

2. You can now either add a glass of orange juice to the cereal mixture and eat, but my preferred method is: Take a bite of the Cheerios and then, while still holding the bite in your mouth, take a sip of orange juice. Allow the complex flavors to stimulate your palate.