Created By: Tanshanomi on January 22, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on June 13, 2017

Bachelors Eat Garbage

A man without a woman cannot create a decent meal...and doesn't care.

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Trope
A bachelor/jilted male is shown cobbling together some substandard meal to highlight his "maleness." This most often depicts his living arrangements/lifestyle either before or after a female lead's involvement, to show how disfunctional his life is (or men's lives in general are) without a female partner. Closely related to Men Can't Keep House and Guys Are Slobs.


Examples

Comic Strips
  • Calvin's dad proudly says he survived two years of his own cooking while he was in college. Calvin's mom claims he survived on frozen waffles and canned soup three times a day.
    Calvin's dad: Your mom wasn't there, so she wouldn't know. Get the syrup out, would you?

Film
  • Overboard: After Annie/Joanna leaves, Dean Proffitt sloppily throws together "Spaghetti-os Surprise," (canned spaghetti topped with Ritz crackers) as the dinner entré for his sons and best friend. From the dialog, it is apparent that this is a meal he made frequently before the arrival of Goldie Hawn's character.
  • The uncle in Flipper seems to survive on nothing but Spaghetti-O's.
  • In Kramer vs. Kramer, Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is unrealistically inept at making french toast for his son the first morning after his wife leaves. He cannot do even the most simple tasks (such as breaking an egg or pouring milk in a bowl), and is forced to give up in anger after a fire breaks out and he burns his hand on the skillet. Later in the movie, he and Billy are shown quickly and efficiently making tasty and appetizing french toast as a symbol of how well they have adapted to life without mama Kramer.

Literature
  • P.J. O'Rourke's book The Bachelor Home Companion is filled with this.
    There is only one secret to bachelor cooking – not caring how it tastes.
    [Ketchup] should be used on anything that would be inedible if it didn't have ketchup on it. Mustard is useful for cutting the excessively ketchup taste so many foods have.

Live-Action TV
  • Subverted in Falling Skies, wherein misogynistic, heartless outlaw gang leader John Pope turns out to be the camp's most accomplished chef (a skill he learned in prison).
    "What is that—paprika? Paprika! Nobody puts paprika on chicken. What're you, Hungarian?"

Western Animation
  • Futurama has "Bachelor Chow", which resembles dog food.

Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • January 22, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • Futurama has "Bachelor Chow", which resembles dog food.
  • January 22, 2013
    lexicon
    See Text Formatting Rules for how to make links to something like Overboard. You need a description with links to other tropes first, then separately list the examples with context to say how they apply.
  • January 22, 2013
    Chabal2
    I think this should be expanded to beyond "guy can't cook because he's broken up", since many comedic examples show it as the ground state of the average male.

    • Calvin's dad proudly says he survived two years of his own cooking while he was in college. Calvin's mom claims he survived on frozen waffles and canned soup three times a day.
      Calvin's dad: Your mom wasn't there, so she wouldn't know. Get the syrup out, would you?
    • Dave Barry has a column where a guy explains that when making sloppy joes, he doesn't pick up spilled grease right away, as he finds it easier to clean up once it's congealed (the girlfriend thinks it's disgusting). Dave not only views this as perfectly sensible, but praises the guy as being able to cook sloppy joes.
    • The uncle in Flipper seems to survive on nothing but Spaghetti-O's.
    • Needless to say, Truth In Television.
  • January 22, 2013
    TrollBrutal
    Very very related to Men Cant Keep House.
  • January 22, 2013
    randomsurfer
    PJ O'Rourke's book The Bachelor Home Companion is filled with this. The two main condiments to have are ketchup (which makes everything taste less bad) and mustard (to cut the ketchup taste everything seems to have). Some other helpful suggestions include buying pots & pans in bulk from Goodwill, so that instead of cleaning them you can just throw them out (having filled the sink with Jell-O so you can pull them out in one big cube instead of individually), installing a water grate in the floor so you can just hose the floor down instead of washing, etc.
  • January 22, 2013
    dvorak
    • Defied by some men who had the foresight to take cooking classes.
  • January 23, 2013
    Arivne
  • January 23, 2013
    StarSword
    Too bad we're not doing troper tales anymore; my dad freely admits to being the King of Reheat. (That might actually make a good title.)
  • January 23, 2013
    Tanshanomi
    I'm okay with opening this up to the general stereotype that single men have neither the skills nor the desire to eat decent meals, if that's appropriate. But we still need examples. This is truly a case of Seen It A Million Times ...I know it is exceedingly common, but I can't for the life of me think of one specific occurrence.
  • January 23, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    To expand on the Dave Barry example, an excerpt (by the way, it's from a book, not a column):
    ''I was recently cooking a batch of Sloppy Joes, and while I was draining the grease, some of it dripped on the kitchen floor. Rather than fooling around with the hot grease, I told her I'd let it congeal overnight and scrape it off in the morning with the paint scraper. Of course she went crazy. You would have thought I suggested going out and inhaling asbestos fibers."
  • January 23, 2013
    lexicon
    While we're waiting for more examples you could make links and separate the description from the examples. The description should include how it's related to Men Cant Keep House and Guys Are Slobs. Also there's no 'me' (or 'I') in a trope page.
  • January 23, 2013
    Antigone3
    I'd call this a subtrope of Men Cant Keep House.

    In my area, at least up to the 1970s male students were barred from home ec classes. Unless a guy's mother/grandmother/aunt taught him to cook, he wasn't going to learn how to cook, thus enforcing this trope.
  • January 23, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    • In one of the Phoenix Wright games, the detective Dick Gumshoe complains during one of his testimonies about how he's had to survive on stuff like ramen since he's failed a few times. He's definitely a bachelor, and he's usually eating bachelor fare (although here it's hinted that being a bachelor is contributing to his poverty).
  • January 24, 2013
    Tanshanomi
    I revised the entry to read as a proper entry, and listed the examples given. I looked up the actual P.J O'Rourke quotes about mustard and ketchup, but I I did not include the rest of the P.J. stuff or the Dave Barry example, since those are actually about Guys Are Slobs than about cooking/eating substandard food.
  • February 1, 2013
    Tanshanomi
    Looks like we've gotten all the input we're going to get, and only one hat. Launch or discard?
  • February 1, 2013
    SpiritedYoungLady
    Should this just be "Men Can't Cook", in keeping with the idea of "Men Can't Keep House"?
  • February 5, 2013
    Tanshanomi
    Spirited Young Lady, the trope is that men WHO ARE ALONE can't cook--not all men. In fact, once they get to be a dad/lover/husband, they may either magically begin to cook without breaking things and starting fires, or at least will raise their standards beyond happily eating dried beetles in ranch dressing.
  • February 5, 2013
    Chabal2
    Homer Simpson once attempted to make a bowl of cereal without Marge's supervision. He managed to set it on fire.
  • February 6, 2013
    darkjezter
    Subverted by Johnny Drama in Entourage, who is a skilled enough cook that Vince hires him to be his personal chef.
  • February 6, 2013
    alnair20aug93
    Well, there's the typical college student consuming coffee, instant noodles and crackers type.
  • February 6, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ To be more exact: you should mention that this is sometimes a case of Starving Student.
  • April 25, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bump. Related draft.
  • April 25, 2017
    sarysa
    I like this trope, but lately it hasn't been limited to men. The only requirement for eating junk food (of whatever standard) seems to be "single and employed".

    Liz Lemon of 30 Rock might be the most famous distaff example.

    (also, holy necro-spam. I feel sorry for anyone who wrote up a brand new submission 2 hours ago.)
  • April 25, 2017
    Getta
    When a female do this, it's different: it means the female is unusual.
  • April 25, 2017
    sarysa
    ^ I have to question that logic. I mean first of all if I really felt like wracking my brain (and verifying on Netflix) I could probably come up with at least 20 TV examples of single women who subsist on junk food and restaurant food. I could come up with way more RL examples if I felt like violating peoples' privacy. :P

    As domestic chores are more and more becoming a paid profession in cities or middle class areas, TV shows are catching up to the reality. Women who don't have time to cook may eat slop not unlike single men, though what the slop is (speaking averages here) would surely be different.
  • April 25, 2017
    Getta
    ^ That simply means the viewpoint is changing. Back then it was unusual.

    Well yeah, this shouldn't be limited to male examples. And title should be Bachelors Cant Cook.
  • April 26, 2017
    Katsuhagi
    • In Brainbent, Bro Strider's skills at meal preparation begin and end at cobbling together an inedible slop from whatever's lying around, which resulted in his younger brother Dave picking up a habit of stashing food around the house. In this case it's not so much about gender as showing just how ill equipped Bro is to be Dave's guardian.
  • April 26, 2017
    Dravencour
    Bachelors Cant Cook gets my vote.
  • April 26, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • The 1970 television series The Odd Couple has Jack Klugman in the role of sports columnist and divorcee Oscar Madison. One of the opening snippets of the show has Felix awaken Oscar in his bed, presumably asking about breakfast. Oscar waves off Felix's offer, and produces half a sandwich from a pocket in his pajamas, which he bites into without hesitation.
  • April 27, 2017
    tyrekecorrea
    This sounds like "Men Cant Cook" with ignorance/apathy attached.
  • April 27, 2017
    tyrekecorrea
  • April 27, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Also a subtrope of Men Are Tough ("tough" in this case meaning both too brutish for sensible cooking and tough enough to survive a terrible diet).
  • April 27, 2017
    AgProv
    There's the apparent Real Life paradox of a prominent British chef - I think from memory it was Marco Pierre White - who after spending what might be an eighteen-hour day preparing exquisite Michelin-starred food for other people, can't face doing anything much for himself and merely fires up a Pot Noodle for himself. Chicken and mushroom flavour, apparently, as Everyone Has Standards. This is by no means rare in the professional catering trade. Even Gordon Ramsay has confessed a partiality for beans on toast.
  • April 28, 2017
    HeroGal2347
    • In the Hank The Cowdog series, it comes up more than once that Sally May does not trust Slim Chance, the hired hand, when it comes to cooking. Slim asserts that he can cook (for instance, boiled turkey necks), but (that I remember) he's never actually shown cooking anything that doesn't come out of a can.
  • April 29, 2017
    Arivne
  • May 1, 2017
    Katsuhagi
    Contrast with Real Men Cook, where a man possessing culinary skills is used as a sign of maturity.
  • May 17, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bump.
  • May 17, 2017
    AgProv
    Literature
    • Willie Rushton, comedian and writer, subverted (or averted) this trope when he wrote a book called Superpig, a self-help guide for men forced by inclination and circumstances to live on their own. In quite a few chapters of comic writing with a serious intent, he discusses how a single man can successfully cook, clean, do laundry and generally not revert to a caveman or porcine state. it's actually quite informative.
  • May 17, 2017
    hszmv1
    Should be pointed out that in Real Life, that career chefs are notoriously difficult for women to break the glass ceiling. Also, women variants of this do exist, though they tend to be more of the career oriented woman who doesn't have time for cooking a meal. For at least one example:

    • Scully, of X Files. While not highlighted specifically, Scully was not above eating junk food such as left over Chinese after a hard day of chasing Mulder chasing aliens. One episode even had her ordering a pizza after getting a craving when she examined the Victim Of The Week's stomach contents... which suggested he had had pizza prior to death... if memory severs, she even orders it with the same toppings the victim had.
  • June 13, 2017
    Getta
    Bump
  • June 13, 2017
    LB7979
    Seeing "men can't cook" is a common stereotype, regardless or their relationship status, the title would be better with "Men" instead instead of "Bachelors". Also, "Eat Garbage" seems a bit vague compared to the Trope definition. People "eating garbage" might as well be due to many other reasons other than their lacking the skills to cook (i.e. they're too poor to buy good food; they lack knowledge about what food is healthy; they're in prison so have no choice in what they eat...)

    Great Trope idea though, I was looking for this lately and was surprised it doesn't exist yet.
  • June 13, 2017
    Getta
    ^ Guess that both bachelors eating garbage and men eating garbage are tropable... And would have a lot of overlap if we draw a Venn diagram of it.
  • June 13, 2017
    LB7979
    On second thought, never mind... Re-reading it: this seems to be about bachelors / men who just don't care about cooking, while what I was thinking of, was men who are bad at cooking, even though they try. Thanks to the links above I now found out that Trope already exists: a specific form of A Day In Her Apron. The above Trope certainly stands on its own.
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