I sometimes have to travel in this line of work and, while I’m off having lunch with Austin Butler or wandering around a field with Jeremy Strong, I can only assume that my husband spends his time wistfully counting down the hours until I return. Who can say for sure? What I do know for certain is that, at some point during my absence, he’ll eat a dinner that he’ll only eat when I’m thousands of miles away: enter Husband Meal.
Recently, The New York Times reported on the phenomenon of “Girl Dinner.” Originally a TikTok trend, Girl Dinner is an elegant mélange of snack foods that, taken together, comprise an entire meal to be enjoyed solo. Think: bread, cheese, grapes, nuts, olives, wine. Husband Meal, the go-to dinner a man eats when his spouse or significant other is away and he’s home alone, is not this. You’re never going to see a photograph of it on your feeds. In fact, Husband Meal is about as spiritually removed from Girl Dinner as you can get. If Girl Dinner evokes eating tapas by the breezy Barthelona seaside, Husband Meal is akin to being held prisoner in an apartment that looks like this.
I first entertained the concept of Husband Meal when, after a few trips in a row, I noticed that my husband would always mention ordering from the same mediocre restaurant down the block that I’m never really in the mood for.
“Adulthood requires you to make smart and sane choices every day, and also to not gross out your wife,” he explained. “Which is why I wait until you’re out of town to order and eat an entire enchilada platter, sometimes with a side of wings. It’s reverting to total bachelorhood for about half an hour.”
I didn’t even know this place served wings. How deep did this conspiracy go?
Soon after, while we were hanging with another couple, the wife mentioned that she was about to leave for a conference. I jokingly asked the husband where he was going to order dinner; without missing a beat, he brought up a local Italian restaurant she doesn’t care for. Husband Meal!
I posed the question to yet another set of couple friends. The husband answered with Taco Bell, though he also showed me a screengrab of a group chat in which he sent a photo of a can of salmon on a hamburger bun, prompting another participant to say that it was giving “divorced guy energy.” And yet, absolutely a Husband Meal.
I needed to test this theory with other men. And who better than the gentlemen of Gentlemen’s Quarterly? The answers, if slightly sheepish, included a variety of secret gastronomical delights:
- “A grocery store rotisserie chicken over the sink.”
- “A gigantic wok full of Spam fried rice that I will eat for dinner one night, put the rest into the fridge, and then over the course of the next few days just grab out of the fridge and eat big spoonfuls of cold.”
- “Wings, or enough Chinese food that they put in two to three place settings.”
- “A lot of simple pasta with olive oil and Parmesan. In some ways my palette hasn’t evolved so much since I was five years old.”
- “My fiancée, fortunately, does not suffer from Man Chef Brain so I would wait for her to go out of town and then sort recipes by the longest time possible. Once, I marinated a pork shoulder for three entire days and then enjoyed it in front of some 30 for 30 documentary.”
- “Mostly I just eat my kid’s food. Best case scenario is Bell & Evans frozen chicken tenders or Annie’s mac and cheese. But sometimes something weirder like Dr. Praeger’s ‘Broccoli Littles’ or fish sticks. To make it more adult, I will place any of these things on a bed of arugula or mixed greens.”
- “Toast with like three tablespoons of butter and sardines. Enough butter so the sardines stick. Flaky salt, squeeze of lemon.”