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"My parents never really got along as I grew up, and even as a kid I kinda knew my parents didn't love each other. One day when I was 10, my mom finally packed up and left while my dad was at work. Except she entirely gutted the house; furniture, clothes, dishes, silverware, electronics, everything, packed into the back of a U-Haul and drove off and left me. I remember crying and screaming and clinging onto to her leg to not go, or at least take me with her.
Anyway, I called my dad and told him what happened. He couldn't leave work early but said he'd be home as soon as possible and to lock all the doors and windows and stay safe inside. I have no idea why, but I remembered these panini-type sandwiches my dad made all the time for me and decided to make one for him. I think I just needed something to do. So I made him a sandwich, put it on one of the paper plates I found, as my mom had taken all the other dishes, and sat on the front stoop and waited for him. I kinda just stared at it and ended up sitting out there for about four hours. When my dad got home, he was shocked to see the house gutted. I kinda just held up the plate to him and said 'I made this for you.' He took it, sat next to me, and ate it with me. I could tell he was trying his hardest not to cry in front of me, so I pretended not to notice him tearing up."
"The day my dad died I went to his favorite bar where they sold steak for lunch. I sat down in his favorite seat and ate in silence. The owner sat down next to me and ate his lunch too. 'Your dad was very proud of you. He was always talking about you kids.' I didn't think I had it in me to cry anymore, but I lost it. Patrons started gathering around and hugging me and crying. These were tough old folks. Miners, concrete workers, and bricklayers all crying. It was the saddest and yet most beautiful meal of my life."
"After my German Shepherd had to be put down I went to a dog-friendly restaurant in my hometown.
I ordered my usual and the counter worker asked 'And anything for Jack today?' I just broke down. I don't fault the worker, the counter is high and Jack liked to lay down in the shade under it in his old age.
They comped my meal but I got 2 bites into it before I just felt like vomiting."
"When I was in grade three I was one of only a handful of children that brought and ate lunch at school, all the other kids went home for lunch. I'd leave my lunch kit in the cloakroom during the day which was pretty much open to everyone.
One day I had a bag of cheezies in my lunch that I was super pumped about, but at lunchtime I realized someone had stolen them, I was freaking irate. Keep in mind, I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood and although I knew on some level that some people were 'poor' I didn't actually believe I knew any.
So word gets out about my cheezies and someone mentions that they saw Vincent eating some at recess. So I stomped on over to the teacher and ratted out Vincent for being a cheezie thief. She called him over and asked if he took them, he looked sad and said he did. The teacher told him that he had to bring me back an even better snack from his house during lunch. I was dreaming about fruit rollups, cookies or granola bars, but when Vincent came back he had saltines with a very thin layer of Jam. He looked so embarrassed when he explained he used the last of his jam and he was sorry. To this day I remember the look of shame on his face and my own realization that he had taken the cheezies because he was hungry. I was going to go home to a house filled with food and boxes of cheezies, he had a house with saltines and no jam because he'd given the last of it to me.
I felt so horrible. I ate the saltines with gusto and told him how great they were and thanked him repeatedly. He looked proud and pleased.
Choking down those dry saltines while having my first realization that there were hungry people around me was easily the saddest meal I ever had."
"I was raised by a single mother with very low income, so I'm sure there were many sad meals in my childhood, but I don't really remember them very well.
The saddest meal that came to mind was my first day on the job after I was forced to drop of college. I attended school for one semester and had $500 a month to live on (support from my dad). Shared apartment with a few friends was $266 bucks, so that left me with $234 for everything: phone, utilities, food, gas, school supplies. I ate a lot of rice, beans, and potatoes that semester. I was already skinny and I lost about 10 pounds. I considered fresh fruit and vegetables to be a 'luxury' during that time. I got my phone shut off a few times and was sent to collection for some medical bills during that time. College was not a very positive experience for me.
Anyway, in February following that semester, I managed to get a good job doing front-line IT support at a good company, making $15 bucks an hour. I was so nervous that I literally didn't sleep the night before. I was struggling to stay awake the whole day. At lunchtime, instead of eating with my new coworkers I just went to my car and ate the lunch I had packed: A tupperware container with some cooked couscous, diced potatoes, and I think some random rice noodles that I had leftover. No spices, vegetables, meat, or flavoring of any kind. It was cold, since I left it in my car during Winter in the midwest. I didn't bring my lunch into work because I was embarrassed. I sat in my old rusty 1986 Corolla, ate my cold bland lunch, and then I napped for about 20 minutes because I was so exhausted. I'm sure I looked like crap when I came back into the office after lunch.
As a side note, I distinctly remember getting my paycheck after that first week, and all I could think about was all of the healthy, nourishing food I was going to buy.
That was 11 years and 1 week ago today. I've been gainfully employed since. Man, I do not miss that."
"I'm in recovery from anorexia (almost 3 years now, woo!) but my saddest meal was the one where I realized that I needed to go back to an inpatient unit. I knew I was going prior to this meal but was 1000% in denial and furious about it.
My now-husband, desperate for me to eat anything, had put together a plate of apple slices, peanut butter on crackers, celery, and Powerade Zero. I ate one bite of celery and threw the rest of the plate against the wall. As I watched peanut butter smear into the baseboard and apples bouncing on the rug, it set in that I really needed to go.
It would end up being the last time I was inpatient, but that feeling of 'crap, they're right, I'm that sick' was awful."
"Freshman year in college, my birthday was 1.5 weeks into the semester. My group of friends invited me to go to Ponderosa for a celebration as it is cheap for the buffet and for some reason they are amped about it. They tell me to meet them at 3 PM and they will cover my buffet price. Get to the restaurant and ask to be seated at the table for the birthday party. Girl looks confused and says, 'Uh yeeeeah... how many?' Decide to say 10 since I knew about 7 would come and 2 of them had girls that hung regularly. Sit down, waiting for the bros to come up and have a mega time.
20 mins later no one arrived yet, waitress has refilled my drink twice and asks if I'm ready to order. Get the buffet and tell her I'm waiting for my buds to show up for my birthday party. She says that is cool and she had kids my age and tells me to have fun. Another 30 mins pass, I've been through the buffet twice, ate my salad and soup slow as heck. Text my friend to see if they are coming, get a reply and it says, 'Yeah almost there lol.'
Another hour passes and I'm still the only person at the huge empty table and I'm eating alone in a room with a few senior citizens. I've been up to the buffet 5 times getting small items, I'm full, the food is crap, and my friends are not replying to my messages. Out comes the wait staff with a cake and they sing happy birthday with clapping and put a paper hat that says birthday boy on my head and take a Polaroid of me. Shortly after I gave up and went back to my dorm.
The next day I ran into my friends in the dining hall and asked them what the heck happened. They said they were joking about Ponderosa and thought I knew. To this day they still laugh about it when someone brings up birthdays."
"My very emotionally unstable father would randomly blow his paycheck on the stupidest things and leave my mom, sister and I without money for groceries so I would search the house high and low for pennies and nickels on the floor or in the pockets of clothes in the laundry or the sidewalk in front of my house. I was a very thorough kid and fill a ziplock bag with change.
Then I would ride my bike over to the grocery store and use the coin star machine that gave a receipt that you could give the cashiers as payment.
I would get the flyer and try and get the most out of my $5. Most of the time I bought pasta, tomato sauce and store brand soda because it would last the longest. Back then I was just doing what I had to do to survive but now that I look back it makes me sad that little 12-year-old me had to worry about stuff like that.
Runner up is the head of lettuce I ate over the course of a couple days because I wanted to lose weight and because I was a stupid teenager."
"During freshman year at university, I went back to Texas for Thanksgiving break and found (big surprise) that my volatile, verbally abusive family had not changed one bit in my absence. After a day or so of painful arguments, insults, and constant derision, I bought myself a plane ticket back to Saint Louis on Thanksgiving day. Mind you, I was a dirt broke freshman college student at the time. The ticket cost a fortune, but I figured my sanity was worth more.
I left early on Thanksgiving day. I had no time to eat breakfast and arrived at the airport too late to get a snack before my flight. By the time we landed, I was so famished, I nearly fainted.
I returned to campus devoid of life. Every person was gone. Every dining hall was closed. Every restaurant within walking distance was closed as well. Defeated, I entered my dorm building and went up to my room.
At some point, I decided to take my little wastepaper basket to the trash room. Sitting on top of the trash heap was a chicken quesadilla on a paper plate. It was cut into 6 pieces, and only 2 pieces had bites taken out of them. The quesadilla was cold and the cheese had congealed, but it didn't even seem stale - maybe an hour or two old. I snatched it up and took it back to my room.
I tore off the bite marks and ate the rest. I cried bitterly afterward thinking that I'd rather eat garbage on Thanksgiving than be treated like garbage."
"I was in the 2nd grade when I slept over at my best friend's house for the first time. I knew her family wasn't well off; her mom had recently split and her dad picked up a night job at a local factory to support his kids. Their dinner was at 4:30 in the afternoon so he could eat with his children before he had to go to work, and each child was served only 2 of those cheap, pink, off-brand weenies. No buns, no ketchup, no chips. At the time I thought it was so sad and awful, but now as I write this I realize that I am oddly thankful for that meal because now I can see what a generous gesture it was for him to feed me too."
"I was dating my college boyfriend at the time. The saddest meal I've ever had was one I didn't eat. It was around our anniversary and I wanted to put some fire back into our relationship. We were young and shouldn't have a dead bedroom at 21! I decided to surprise him with a home cooked meal, candles etc. My ex arrives home and sees the dinner table set, food simmering on the stove, and me smiling in a new dress with some lingerie underneath. Instead of being excited he looks annoyed, shuffles past me, boots up his computer, puts his headphones on and starts playing WoW. This royally pissed me off and I ripped his headphones off his head and chucked them across the room. We got into a screaming match which ended with him eating dinner at the computer and me crying in the kitchen cleaning everything up. It pretty much solidified that he cared more about his game than me."
"The first fried bologna sandwich I ate after my grandfather died. My grandmother used to make the sandwiches for him and me (really all the grandkids) when I was little. I was 12 years old when he passed and the morning after the funeral I got up early, pulled out the bologna, and fried up a dozen or so sandwiches. My cousins, siblings, aunts, and uncles all had one for breakfast that morning. We literally all crowded into the kitchen and ate in silence. It was the worst morning, the longest breakfast of my life."
"In 2006, I made a bad decision to move with some friends to Virginia from Texas. After I was there for a couple of weeks, I realized the mistake I had made and decided to come home. The problem is, I had no money. Literally $0. Like I said, it was a bad idea. So I call up my family and convince my rich aunt to buy me a bus ticket. So then began my 2 days of bus travel back to Texas with no money, which means no food. A day into the trip, after changing buses in Mississippi, a man got on my bus who looked like he was probably on illegal substances. He was shaking and his hair was dirty and messed up and he had a backpack. An hour after getting on this bus, he changes seats to sit across from me. He leans over and says 'Want a pear?'
I have no idea why this man offered me a pear. In hindsight, he could have put something in it or something to hurt me, but he didn't. Instead, I ate a delicious pear and cried sitting on a bus back home."
"When my girlfriend almost died last year I ate alone for the first time in... A long time. We work together, we live together, we do everything together. At that point, I didn't know if she was going to live or not.
I couldn't get anything down, even though the hospital's cafeteria food was surprisingly good. I've never had a more depressing meal in my life.
The following day the janitor sat down with his lunch at my table. He didn't say anything, just sat there. Then after a while, he started making small talk and asked how I was doing. It turned everything around for me. Everyone else was, understandably, too busy to just sit down. Apparently, he does this all the time. A true hero, taking time for people he doesn't know and will likely never meet again."
"For me it was when I was about 8 years old. I grew up in the rice villages of southern China and we were dirt poor. I remember my mother had to go out somewhere for a day, either the market or work at the rice fields, but it was a long time. My little sister, (she was 3 at the time) and I got hungry so we went to the shelves to look for things to eat. We didn't have things like refrigerators or anything and everything was on these shelves. We had a container with rice but I didn't know how to cook it. There was literally nothing except a half bottle of cough syrup. So me and my little 3 year old sister shared a bottle of cough syrup for the day. Communism is a mess, man.
Another one is from my Dad, he used to tell us how when he was growing up, his grandma used to save her half bowl of rationed rice for the day from working at the People's factory for him when she comes home. My Dad was always hungry and the ration he gets at school for a growing boy was not enough. Well one time his grandma collapsed at the factory, probably from not having enough to eat and had to go to the hospital but she sent her half bowl of rice with a neighbor co-worker to drop off for Dad. My Dad said he ate more tears in that bowl of rice than rice that day. (I know it's not me but my dad just tells that story to us all the time and I wanted to tell my great grandma's legacy somehow)."
"Back in April of last year, I had to put my best friend to sleep. I woke up in the morning and my dog Dobie was laying in bed with me barely moving. I tried to get her excited about going to eat her food and going outside, and bless her heart she tried to get excited but she didn't want to get out of bed.
I knew something was wrong with her but I didn't want to admit it to myself. I laid there with her for about 20 minutes before going upstairs and telling my mom we needed to go to the vet because Dobie was dying. I laid with her in bed one last time before we went to the vet and sure enough when we got there they did an x-ray and said that she had some internal bleeding from a mass in her body. I had her for 13 years, ever since she was a puppy.
After I said goodbye to her I didn't eat or do anything but lay in bed and cry for 5 days. On the 5th day, I actually managed to make some food, took a few bites, and realized that Dobie wasn't coming to try and get my food ever again; I broke down and never finished that meal. The silence of her absence still gets to me on nights when I am alone."
"My English professor always liked to tell the story of his Thanksgiving during his freshman year of college. He had moved away, and his mom and gotten a new boyfriend, so he decided to be a big tough man and stay in the dorms over the holiday so he wouldn't bother his mom. He didn't realize how empty everything would be. He said he was the only one left in his hall, and that all he could manage for Thanksgiving dinner was a bag of potato chips and a can of spam he bought from a 7-11 down the road. He can't stand the thought of Spam now, not because of the taste, but because it reminds him of how lonely he was."
"When my husband and I went to the grocery store I decided I wanted to try lobster (it was on sale). I didn't know that they just wrapped a live crustacean in brown paper and handed it to you to take home.
When we got home I found out it was still alive. I didn't want to kill it by shoving a knife through it or dropping it in a pot of boiling water (I heard a rumor that they scream if you did that). So I thought that if I put it in our freezer it would fall asleep and die.
Well, I opened our freezer an hour and a half later and the poor lobster had frosty bubbles coming out of its face. I felt like a monster. I took it out and put it in the sink and tried to prepare myself to shove a knife into it to kill it quickly.
I couldn't. I had to get my husband to kill the lobster for me. After cooking it and melting butter to go with it, I sat at the table, opened up the tail, took a piece dipped it into the butter put it into my mouth and promptly burst into tears. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't force myself to eat it. My husband laughed his head off at me. Then he ate the lobster."