After college I came to Chicago and moved in with my best friend, Amanda. And let’s just say we didn’t have the healthiest eating habits. We went to the grocery store maybe once a month, bought as many non-perishables as we could carry from car to apartment in one trip, and hoped we didn’t have to go back for a while. Considering that one of our first joint trips to Dominick’s included an overgrown frat boy making lewd comments while we tried to choose cucumbers, it’s not really a mystery why we didn’t go back often. Our haul generally consisted of a few loaves of bread (some to freeze before they got moldy), boxes of veggie burgers and various frozen fake meat products, frozen broccoli (for me), canned green beans (for her), instant mashed potatoes, boxes of a now-forgotten brand of Mexican rice, and an instant coffee-cake mix that came with a disposable baking tray and a bag to mix the batter in, perfect for a couple of kitchen-lazy girls with no dishwasher.

But our absolute favorite disgusting convenience food was Betty Crocker hash browns. They cost about 89 cents a box and were perfect for two people, mine slathered in a repulsive amount of ketchup, hers not. They were so good, in fact, salty and buttery and crispy in all the right places, that I would probably still eat them today if they hadn’t been discontinued. I’d probably just skip the step of checking out the nutritional information before chucking them in the cart.

I’ve been thinking about those convience foods a lot lately, and I was reminded of the last time Amanda visited, when she told me about something she’d been eating a lot lately: tater tot nachos, or totchos. I finally tried it tonight, and it was exactly what I needed after a horrible commute. A pile of warm, crispy tater tots globbed with spicy refried beans, a quick nutritional yeast cheese sauce, pepper-heavy salsa, and green Tabasco. Somehow the tots, with their steaming, fluffy interiors, seem more suited to an especially chilly, rainy fall night than a handful of tortilla chips.

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