The takeout junkie trope

Odd to hold such merciless opinions on something so innocuous as takeout food

Maureen (Brenda Adelman) among the skeletal remains of her takeout binge, with brother-in-law, Squire (NIck Charles), for company.
  • Maureen (Brenda Adelman) among the skeletal remains of her takeout binge, with brother-in-law, Squire (NIck Charles), for company.
  • Image by Ken Jacques

Skin Deep

In Scripps Ranch Theatre’s production of Skin Deep, female lead, Maureen Mulligan — played to the Irish Catholic spinster extreme by Brenda Adelman — seems to survive on a steady diet of takeout food, the remains of which litter her apartment by the time the second act gets into swing. We are not left with the sense that her loyalty to Happy Dragon Chinese and Roman Empire pizza is a conciliatory measure meant to ease the permanent ache in her loneliest of hearts. It appears her only sustenance.

As children, getting takeout is like a special treat. It has all the benefits of going to a restaurant, like getting to order whatever you want; without the drawbacks, like having to wear clothing, or sit still.

In college, takeout food becomes a way of life, seeing as how a strong plurality of 20-year-olds might starve to death were it not for inexpensive lo mein specials and half-price calzone Mondays. With their colons of steel, pliable arteries, and resilient pancreases, a steady diet of pizza, Natural Ice, and Ben & Jerry’s does them little immediate harm.

People in Maureen’s demographic, however, should long since have abandoned ordering in for wholesome, nutritious home-cooked meals. Failing that, dining out should be a social occasion, for meeting friends and staying up on fashionable restaurants.

Why is it that popular opinion looks askance at an adult who orders takeout on the regular?

Because it’s unhealthy? Possibly, but popular restaurants serve buttery, meaty salt-bombs and nobody bats an eye.

More likely we regard the serial takeout diner as hopelessly withdrawn from society. A fridge filled with nothing but takeout leftovers marks the owner sad and desperate, as if a lack of soul could be reflected in pagoda boxes of dessicated rice, in styrofoam clamshell containers hiding congealed burrito halves.

Love of luncheon specials hardly compares to the odious political ideologies at work in the world today, so at first it seems odd to hold such merciless opinions on something so innocuous as takeout food. But it makes a weird kind of sense. What is more basic, more universal, and more undeniably human than the ways we choose to feed ourselves? Considering this resonance, It’s a surprise that more writers don’t put the takeout junkie trope to work.

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