Winging dinner on election night? You’re not alone.


You’ve weathered a chaotic year, cast your ballot and on election night, there’s little left to do. So…what’s for dinner?

It’s a loaded question amid an election period perceived by 68 percent of Americans as a “significant source of stress,” per a poll by the American Psychological Association (a 16 percent increase from those surveyed during the 2016 election) and the well-studied link between stress and food consumption. According to Harvard Medical School, anxiety can either dull our appetites or cause overeating (sometimes of high-caloric foods) when the hormone cortisol rises during the body’s stress response.

The coronavirus pandemic has also changed the way we eat. Bread baking aside, the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey of more than 1,000 Americans, points to more people cooking at home, thinking about food and snacking.

According to Elaine Paravati Harrigan, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, election night dinner has new meaning. “People enjoy control and predictability and that’s another reason why the pandemic and election season have been so unsettling,” she tells Yahoo Life. “On another day, planning dinner might not be so important.”

Your dinner choices could also change without food-filled election watch parties. “With friends, you might eat dessert if everyone else does because we are driven to act in ways that help us belong to a group,” says Harrigan. “This is evolutionarily adaptive — being in groups helps us to survive and thrive, so we are constantly using social information to help guide our choices and maintain our group membership.” This year, with fewer gatherings due to the pandemic, she says, those choices could look different.

Some shared menu ideas on Twitter. “Election night dinner at home,” read one tweet. “Steak, potatoes, salad, leftover Halloween candy, beer, wine, champagne, bourbon, cigars, Tylenol, Xanax, and CBD oil. Am I forgetting anything?” Another wrote, “Just a reminder that Halloween candy is 50% off right now in case anyone wants to have the same Election Day anxiety dinner as me.”

Restaurant menus have accommodated these strange times. Funkenhausen in Chicago, Ill. offers a $150 “Election Week Survival Kit” (a choice of appetizer, entree, desserts and drinks) “to help you through what’s sure to be a long week so you can stress-eat or have a glass, (or three), of wine.” The offer, extended until Nov. 7, promises to “help take the edge off while you stare at the endless election news updates.” Krispy Kreme, in honor of “DOUGHmocracy,” is giving away free glazed doughnuts on Tuesday and last week, Fatburger debuted its “Hang In There Burger,” available until Dec. 31, “to help get through the remainder of 2020” per a press release sent to Yahoo Life.

This week, celebrity chefs dropped all pretense of an average weeknight meal. Ina Garten posted a photo of simmering red wine braised short ribs in a quest to “stay positive today” and Alton Brown launched a dinner rant on Twitter proclaiming, “So many Food Network people are like ‘oh, I’m going to braise short ribs in elderberry jam…’ Screw that, I’m going to mainline moon pies and snort cheese powder!”

I have 17 cans of Duncan Hines frosting and I’m not afraid to use them. Back the hell off!” he continued (“RISK EVERYTHING,” the brand responded on Twitter). He continued tweeting, “Canned fruit salad and Cheeze Wiz with Hershey’s syrup and gin,” “Turn off the lights and run 23 Slim Jims through the juicer” and ordered fans to “go out right now and buy Fritos and cat food.”

The thread inspired some truly makeshift menus. “I’m buying whiskey and cake mix which is not far off,” one person tweeted.

“I will, in fact, be making two cakes today. I don’t think there can be too many cakes this week…” wrote another.

“I’ve made mashed potatoes two nights in a row, may go for a third night tomorrow,” tweeted someone. “Dessert has been left over Halloween candy, Pinot noir and almond joy pair just fine — don’t judge.”

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