Ah, it’s four in the morning. As you light up your cigarette, you turn to your bedmate and light one for her as well. The first drag settles in like a cloud of numbing smoke in your belly, and as you look into the misty eyes of the beautiful woman next to you, her skin dewy with the fresh gleam of intimacy, both of you still tingly-tired from a round of good loving, one tender thought separates itself from all others, demanding expression. “Are you hungry?” you ask. This one sentence seems to arouse as much passion as that first bit of foreplay two hours ago. “Yes,” she breathlessly sighs, and excitement fills the air. But then you both exchange a quick concerned look as she continues, “but what have you got?”
Only now do you realize you may have made a premature promise, one on which your kitchen may not be able to deliver. You rack your brain, as the refrigerator light comes on in your mind-a brown head of lettuce (why do you always buy a whole head?-it’s enough for like thirty salads), several imported cheeses, slashed down to the rinds, a jar of capers with about ten capers swimming on the murky bottom, various exotic condiments you haven’t used in a decade (nam pla, pla nam, mango chutney, etc.), and 17 or 18 half-empty vitamin jars. “But wait!” you think, didn’t I buy eggs last week to make that definitive recipe for spaghetti carbonara from the NY Times Food Section? (never made?). And what about that leftover baked potato from a dinner you didn’t eat because you filled up on beer and chips? “Sugar”, you confidently say, “I’ll be right back.” And you head into the kitchen to prepare what, for me, is always the best meal of the day. It is not lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, although it often includes eggs. It is the meal you eat in bed at 4 AM with a stranger, a lover, perhaps even your partner if you’re lucky, after a night of drunken debauchery. For what bacchanal is complete without a little food? You’re hungry, you don’t know what to eat, but you need to eat something. And that’s why I call this meal, the most important meal of the day, Sumtain.
For Sumtain, an improvised menu is customary. It will include only what you have in your fridge and your cupboards, and only what one can cook in a semi-drunk state (no bacon). If you like, both of you can cook, but I recommend that only one cooks, while the other smokes cigarettes in bed. This way, you both have a little quiet time to reflect on how lucky you are. The occasional shouts of “Hey, lover, I’ll be back in five minutes”, and, “Wow, that smells great”, are really all the convo you need. Now as to the makeup of Sumtain, this is always tough, and limited to what you have on hand. Eggs are common-just fry them, you can’t do over easy when you’re seeing double. Keep stirring them in the pan in some butter until they’re done-nothing fancy. Got any leftover tortillas from that Mexican meal you made two weeks ago? Rip’em up and throw them in, for fiber. You’ll need some fiber to soak up all that alcohol. If not, toast is the second most popular ingredient in a 4 AM Sumtain. But now here comes the surprises.
Take a look and see what you have. Can of Mexican peppers unopened in three years? Three cans of kidney beans (I hate kidney beans, I only eat black beans, why on earth do I continue to buy kidney beans?), a smushy onion or two, even those rind-only cheeses are all going into the Sumtain pot. Got any spices that haven’t turned to dust yet? A couple of jars of cumin, perhaps? Get ‘em out, you’re going to need them. Of course any leftover take-out food is acceptable, but that’s not really Sumtain. Anyway, I prefer to save that and cold pizza for the next day’s lonely hangover lunch. And, of course, don’t worry about eating breakfast today, you’ll have already had your fill for Sumtain.
Several quick no-no’s-try to do as little chopping as possible. It’s extremely unromantic to spend the wee hours alone in the emergency room (I guarantee she won’t come). Don’t drink any milk-it’s probably bad, and you won’t be able to tell until it’s too late (again, the emergency room). A glass of wine’s okay, but don’t try to make coffee-hot water burns. And finally, the best and most memorable Sumtains always include the one ingredient I am almost never without, chocolate pudding. When you ask Miss X if she would like some chocolate pudding, I guarantee her eyes will fill with tears of love and joy. You might even get a second round. But first, eat your Sumtain.