Food in the Big Bang Theory

UPDATED! (Food schedule and fun facts way below)

“Big Bang Theory” is one of my favorite TV shows (next to “The Office”) because it made scientific knowledge and marginalized literature seem cool.

But there’s also another aspect I like about the show– the yummy food.

The characters eat prominently displayed food in many of the scenes, and a lot of the dishes are repeated as if in an established routine particular to a setting.

For example, when Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard hang out at home or have guests over for dinner, they usually have Chinese take-out (like Tangerine Chicken or dumplings).

Most times, they have a spaghetti-and-salad combination with pizza or dinner rolls. One time, Sheldon had to eat both Chinese food AND spaghetti (with a sliced up hotdog in it) in the same night to avoid taking sides after Penny and Leonard broke up.

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Check the green plastic bottle of sauce. We have the exact same bottle, only filled with chili sauce from a local Singaporean restaurant.

When the boys are at work and take lunch breaks at the cafeteria, they eat (or pick at with their forks) any combination of the following common deli treats: club sandwiches, thick french fries, garden salads, deli pasta salad, or fajitas speared in the middle with a tiny cocktail toothpick.And so do the people in the periphery. My hunch is that this is food from the show’s catering table.

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Since Penny works at the Cheesecake Factory, the main characters eat there too. The most unforgettable instance was when Sheldon, hoping to solve a scientific problem by doing menial work, posed as a busboy/ waiter at the Cheesecake Factory.In this particular instance, the rest of the gang ordered:

  • a bacon cheeseburger for Howard (breaking 2 Jewish dietary restrictions simultaneously),
  • beer-battered fish and chips for Raj with tartar sauce (and extra salsa that Sheldon recommended because it’s zingy)
  • and for Leonard, a Factory Burrito Grande (no cheese, no sour cream, no ugly consequences from his lactose intolerance)

All of these are on the real Cheesecake Factory menu.

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Notice that the fries on Raj’s plate match the fries in the cafeteria:

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Yummy! Looks crunchy too.

On special occasions, they have food beyond the usual repertoire (that includes coffee and cereals). Like, sometimes they have ice cream with sprinkles from a presumably nearby ice cream cart, unseen gelato, cheese fondue, or even pancakes shaped like hobbits with coconut shavings for feet hair.

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Whatever it is on the menu that day, as long as it keeps my favorite nerds happy. Bazinga.

SOME OBSESSIVE FOOD-RELATED NOTES:

Asian Cuisine

Sheldon seems to be the pickiest eater in the group, dishing out random facts about cuisine and how he likes food a certain way. In the pilot episode, his first reference to food is how he believes eating Thai and Indian at the same time is “gastronomically redundant.”

Sheldon also doesn’t like it when Penny uses a fork when eating Chinese food and double-dips her egg rolls. In succeeding episodes, however, Penny is seen using chopsticks.

In the next episode, Sheldon also explains why Thais don’t eat chopsticks, but use forks to put food on a spoon, which is then brought to the mouth.

Howard is allergic to peanut oil, and his predicament has caused “all Thai restaurants in town” to call order-taker Leonard “No Peanut Boy” as a result.

They seem to like frequenting “Chinese Restaurant,” the title of which is printed on the menus. Sheldon reveals in Season 1 that their standard order, particularly tailored for four people, includes the steamed dumpling appetizer (4 pieces), General So’s chicken, beef with broccoli, shrimp with lobster sauce and vegetable lo mein.

The restaurant is later named the Sechuan Palace, from which Sheldon likes to order tangerine chicken. It is revealed in Season 2 that Sechuan Palace had closed two years prior to Season 2, and that Leonard had been ordering Sheldon’s cashew chicken takeout from Golden Dragon, and hid the fact by purchasing 4,000 Chinese takeout boxes from Sechuan Palace and putting it in the trunk of his car.

The first time the boys eat at a Chinese restaurant, sans Howard who is on a date. “Chinese Restaurant” is actually the only title on the menus.

On their second filmed visit to the restaurant in S3E13, Sheldon is displeased that they redid the menu. He questions why General So’s Chicken was placed under “chicken” instead of “specialties,” saying this might indicate that the chef had lacked confidence in the dish. He also catches a typographical error in “shrimp in mobster sauce,” for which he panics that the restaurant may be a front for organized crime. They leave without ordering and head to Corleone’s pizza.

Other menu items mentioned for takeaway are kung pao chicken, shrimp and lobster sauce (which Howard calls an “un-kosher delight”). Sheldon wants his chicken broccoli to be diced, not shredded, with brown rice (not white), and likes to pour into the box hot mustard from a Korean grocery and low-sodium soy sauce.

Mushu pork makes Howard sick.

Raj apparently hates Indian food, as Sheldon gleefully mentions to Penny when he orders kadhai paneer, which represents the “intoxicating freedom” of not having the three other boys around. First off, the dish is Indian, which Raj “loathes,” it has a generous helping of peanuts (which would reduce Howard to a 97-pound blister) and the main ingredient is paneer, a farmer’s cheese, which will render Leonard flatulent.

Raj confirms in S3E2 that Indian food does not agree with him. They used to eat at Tandoori Palace but they change to Mumbai Palace.

As for Thai food, Sheldon, when ordering for himself from Siam Palace, gets a quarter of the assorted appetizers plate and a half of the Golden treasure for two.

Cheesecake Factory

One can call this restaurant their extended home, or at least just a playground. They once played imaginary battles with condiments, each of which stood for a variety of characters, from Godzilla to American Civil War generals to Indian gods.

The first time they eat at Cheesecake Factory — a “disturbing aberration” according to Sheldon — Howard orders a Heart Smart Platter, Sheldon and Leondard have BBQ hamburgers, while Raj failed to speak up and get his order taken.

Sheldon once demanded soup while he was violently ill, mentioning that his mother used to fix him split-pea soup with tiny frankfurters and homemade croutons in them, but settles for Penny’s suggestion.

By the time Season 2 rolls around, Penny seems more well-versed in their food choices, guessing their orders as the following:

  • quesadilla with soy cheese for lactose-intolerant Leonard
  • shrimp Caesar salad with no almonds for only Jewish on the high holidays Howard
  • Meat lover’s pizza, with no meat for bandwagon Hindu Raj
  • and BBQ bacon cheeseburger for Sheldon, with bacon, BBQ sauce and cheese on the side
Sheldon debates ordering either a small sandwich vs. half a sandwich, and has lemonade with his “usual.”


Western Choices

Sheldon professes never to eat at “strange” restaurants (in the context of the conversation, this meant Italian) because he fears three-tined forks, which he deems only appropriate for ruling the seas.

However, Sheldon mentions that his mother likes to cook Italian because she says this is what the Romans used to make Jesus eat. She always uses Mama Itali spaghetti sauce and throws in cut-up hotdogs for the dish, which is such a comfort food for Sheldon that Amy Farrah Fowler uses it to spark affectionate feelings in Sheldon during one dinner date.

For deli takeaways, Sheldon says he wants his hamburger patty medium well, with dill slices (not sweet), individual relish packets and onion rings with extra breading. He will throw away a dish if he believes it has been touched by other people.

It is mentioned in passing that Raj, despite his religion, eats Whoppers.

Sheldon, who badly wants to see a certain CERN gadget in Switzerland, is so excited by the prospect that he makes cholermus, or Swiss pancakes, to acclimatize himself with the food he thinks he will eat. However, Sheldon and Penny come down with a sickness and are both unable to make it to Switzerland, and they share chicken soup with little stars and heated to 180 degrees.

Cholermus.

Eating at Home 

Sheldon arranges his cereals by fiber content on top of their fridge, with Mini-Bites being the most prominent. He indulges in low-fiber ones when he has cause to celebrate. Sometimes he likes chocolate milk and Eggo’s (waffles). There are also usually bananas hanging on a special holder in Sheldon and Leonard’s kitchen. He has also been spotted eating Oreos with milk while watching Star Wars.

For some breakfasts, they make pancakes with fresh blueberries. Once, Penny makes French toast with syrup or cinnamon sugar on a Monday, in violation of Sheldon’s oatmeal day. Howard, to ingratiate himself to Penny and Leonard, makes scrambled eggs and salami, which he says is the perfect meal post-sex. Sheldon can also make English muffins.

When Sheldon’s mother visits in the first season, she makes chicken and peach cobbler, the secret ingredient of which is lard (see below). As a boy, Sheldon was hit with a Bible if he didn’t eat his Brussels sprouts. He was also nicknamed “Moonpie” by his grandmother because he’s “nummy nummy” and she could just eat him up.

Those generic buns are seen throughout the episodes, even in the cafeteria.



Accompanying video games are a variety of takeaways and the usual junk food. They had Thai food for a Superman marathon, chips during one of their many Halo nights (Wednesday). At one point they tried to serve Sheldon’s twin sister Missy gerkins and onion dip. They also drink hot chocolate when playing board games. For one Mystic Warlords night, they have cookies, chips and Chinese food.

There have been some mix-ups in the kitchen, such as when Leonard finds out that the measuring cup he has been using for pancake batter has been Sheldon’s urine cup. 

 It is also shown that Sheldon likes to eat grilled cheese when he is sick. Sheldon likes to remove the crusts off toast. Sheldon also eats what looks like grilled cheese with a smiley face on it when he goes home to his mother in Texas.

This is dinner with mom.

When casually loitering around the apartment, the boys usually make themselves sandwiches such as ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Sheldon, however, contradicts himself in one episode where he is seen making a sandwich with mayo first, then ham, then cheese (and it is implied this will be followed with lettuce) — when in an earlier occasion when they had take-out sandwiches, he complained that the Swiss cheese in his turkey and roast beef on whole wheat was not on the bottom, so as to “create a moisture barrier” in what he deems “basic culinary science.”

It is said that they order cheese-less pizzas for Leonard because he is lactose intolerant, and gets flatulent from Eskimo pies. But it is mentioned that he can tolerate small amounts of non-fat ice cream.

Howard’s mother is famous for her brisket, described as “melt in your mouth” and as coming with small onions.

They have pizza on football night at Penny’s.

Sheldon and Penny often clash over her eating habits, particularly how she plays with food and how she “willy nilly takes food from containers without regard for its equitable distribution,” which he points out is the reason for widespread poverty in India.

Perhaps because he studies the all-encompassing universe in Physics, he is well-versed in random trivia about food. For instance, he educates Penny on how Fig Newtons are named after a town in Massachusetts and not the scientist. He also says that the expression “to toast” originated from ancient civilizations’ practice of putting spiced toast in their drinks.

Beverages

The first episode where the boys are seen overtly drinking alcoholic beverages is when Penny scores a bartending shift at CF and asks the boys to help her practice. It is revealed that Sheldon likes Diet Cokes, or virgin Cuba libres, but unwittingly drinks rum cokes at CF when Penny spikes his drink much later.

Penny also fixes Leonard a tequila sunrise, amazing for showing how liquids in different specific gravities interact in a cylindrical container, and the mint-flavored cocktail grasshopper, which is anathema to Raj’s shyness.

Penny drinks rum from an eggnog carton over the holidays. She also expresses a liking to peppermint schnapps, saying she likes the sound of it.

Sheldon prepares his tea with a filter, usually with a plate of cookies on the side. Matching Sheldon in terms of pickiness, Mrs. Beverly Hofstadter likes oolong tea, loose, non-fat, steeped three minutes, with 2% milk warmed separately and one teaspoon of raw sugar.

Sheldon considers coffee a drug, hence does not drink it. It is shown that he gets exceedingly hyperactive when he does. At a university mixer, Raj gets a screwdriver, while Sheldon gets a rootbeer float with ice cream, but Raj instead suggests he get a Shirley Temple.

Upset over her unresolved father issues, as psychoanalyzed by Leonard’s mother, Penny and Leonard have white wine and tequila shots, ending in a round of body shots.

Sheldon likes his hot coco with milk, real cocoa and little marshmallows. He says he only drinks this in months with an “R” in them (“What’s life without whimsy?”). Sheldon makes hot chocolate with a stick of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” butter for Leonard and Howard to build up blubber for the Arctic.

In S3E2, Penny and Leonard share wine to ease sexual awkwardness.

At home, the boys like drinking tea, bottled water or juice from their fridge.

Sheldon sometimes makes snowcones, first by blitzing ice in a blender while Penny and Leonard are fighting so as to drown out the noise, after which he offers them a commemorative snowcone. In a later episode, it is mentioned he has a Snoopy Snowcone-Maker (a gift from Raj).

Howard likes to drink champagne in the bubble bath while jacking off to Katee Sackhoff, who played Captain Kara Thrace on Battlestar Galactica.

On Christmas night, Penny gives tequila shots to Leonard’s mother, who notices an immediate lowering of her inhibitions.

Lunches at the Office

Howard gets brown-bag lunches from his mother, and complains when there is no Dingdong in the bag.


Specific items served there include mashed potatoes and stuffing (the combination of which Sheldon deems a “starch-filled redundancy”) and soups. There are also peas, fries and what looks like steak. Sheldon once receives a spinach and mushroom omelet from a stalker grad student.

Sheldon eats buteroni, which is elbow macaroni with ground hamburger and tomato sauce. Among the other items the boys have eaten are: bagels with cream cheese, burgers,

For desserts or snacks, there is chocolate cake, muffins.

Chocolate cake

Raj once has tapioca pudding, which he deems the best dessert because the worst of it would be better than the best pudding. Sheldon rejects the axiom, saying the best pudding is chocolate, and says tapioca’s structure makes it a jiggling bowl of potential death and is prepared with cyanide, hence lethal when raw or prepared improperly.

There are usually what seems to be McCormick salt and pepper bottles on the cafeteria tables. There is extra ketchup and condiments from one of the cafeteria stations.

Raj says he has to eat lima beans before he can eat his cookie.

They often drink Fanta and Twist in the cafeteria.

Eating on dates

It is clear that among the quartet, Leonard has the most successful (initially) dates with women.

After his first date with Penny, Leonard explains after his first date that her yogurt is not technically yogurt because it doesn’t have enough live acidophilus cultures, and is just ice milk with carrageenan. On his date with Leslie, they have orange chicken from Chang’s.

On his date with Howard’s original pick-up, surgical resident Dr. Stephanie Barnett, they have lasagna with bread, followed a later night with spaghetti and dinner rolls. Sheldon interjects over candlelight that Italian housewives believe a handful of pasta is sufficient for each person since it swells when cooked. Leonard is later seen saran-wrapping the pasta pot.

Leonard farts after having cheese dip.

On their first double date with Bernadette and Howard, Penny and Leonard have pasta and greens with red wine. On another double date, they eat at a previously unseen restaurant, which by its decor seems to essay a bistro or lounge, where they are seen eating salads. To note, the panels at this restaurant appear again in a shoe store in a later episode.

Notice the panels in the background are the same.

It is only mentioned in passing that they have dates at PF Chang’s. For Valentine’s, Howard’s idea of a romantic date with Bernadette is treating her to a $39.99 special at PF Chang’s, inclusive of egg rolls, dumplings and bottomless wok.

Howard’s mother usually has coupons to restaurants, which he often uses to bring the guys to dinner — but sometimes with his mother in tow.

To reveal his ill-fated plan to bring Penny to Switzerland with him during a conference, he gives Penny clues about where he is taking her for Valentine’s Day, using fondue, chocolate and Swiss cheese as clues — all of which are lost on Penny.

On their first date, facilitated by Howard and Raj using an online dating site, Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler meet at a coffee shop that has Pasadena in the title, according to the logo on the door. Offered a drink, Amy says she wants tepid water.

Weird Food Encounters

When Sheldon lost his job at the university for calling the president an idiot, he embarked on a string of alarming hobbies, the first of which was conducting experiments with eggs, testing the effect of the separation of water molecules and egg protein on taste. He also makes a throat culture using Jell-o.

The egg experiment

Leslie Winkle, one of their colleagues and one-time bed buddy of Leonard, has heated her cups of ramen with a laser at the lab, and smashed a banana to bits, after dipping it in liquid nitrogen, so she could sprinkle them on top of her Cheerios.

In one Season 2 episode, the boys experiment with corn starch and water, which they simulate “dancing” on a stereo because it becomes solid under the percussive action of the speaker.



Locks and bagels are described as the “food of time travelers” by Howard.

In Season 2, the boys play a game of “secret agent obstacle laser lunch,” in which anyone who can pass through the laser obstacle past Leonard and Sheldon’s kitchen can claim a slice of pizza. In a later episode, Howard uses his mother’s meatloaf to simulate a turd while he tests a corrected version of his space toilet for NASA.

In the Arctic, the boys have Camp Cuisine, including reconstituted Thai food abd for Sheldon some reconstituted low-sodium soy sauce, freeze-dried hot mustard and frozen brown rice.

As a classical conditioning experiment, Sheldon feeds Penny with chocolate for good behavior so that he does not have to put up with her bad habits while she and Howard were dating.

Sheldon has a toaster that can imprint a Cylon on at least one side, saying it would destroy human toast on Battlestar Galactica.

It is revealed in S3E8 that Penny has “soup” tattooed on her right buttock, thinking the Chinese character meant “courage.”

Eating outdoors is rather rare for them, but once they camped out to watch a once-in-a-lifetime Leonid shower. Leonard, Howard and Raj miss this event because they are high on cookies with marijuana in them. When they get the muchies, they gorge on pudding cups, Slim Jims and Howard’s mom’s “I love you” brisket with roasted potatoes and carrots, which is packed in a Tupperware container.

Leonard puts a glass of Mountain Dew dangerously close to his experiment with foam, which he makes from hydrogen peroxide saturated with potassium iodide and ordinary dish soap, which is then used to ruin Kripke’s office.

Deep in thought and distracted over his graphine problem, in which he seems to be determining its structure, Leonard says Sheldon used a stick of butter as deodorant. At the cafeteria, Sheldon uses lima beans as carbon atoms and peas as electrons to visualize.

In S4E1, Howard takes home a a robot arm he constructed for repairs in the International Space Station and uses it to unpack their Chinese takeaway boxes, a task that takes 28 minutes.

Holidays

For Thanksgiving, Howard’s mother makes turbriskefil, which is a turkey stuffed with brisket stuffed with gefilte fish.

Candy canes are hung on Leonard and Sheldon’s Christmas tree.

Raj confesses that on Valentine’s Day, he always buys a rotisserie chicken and eats it out of the package in the sink with his bare hands “like an animal.”

WHAT WE KNOW OF Big Bang Theory’s food schedule so far:

There are various clues throughout the seasons as to certain food schedules the boys follow, no doubt due to Sheldon. Howard refers to it as the Sheldonite calendar, which is available to download on Sheldon’s iCal.

He mentions that he has a “Tuesday night hamburger,” which was formerly Big Boy but was replaced by the Cheescake Factory’s BBQ hamburger because it is a single-decker sandwich, hence “has a much more satisfying meat to bun to condiment ratio.”

The Tuesday hamburger schedule is confirmed in S2E18, when Sheldon panics that Penny will quit being a waitress and someone else will have to bring him his cheeseburger.

Sheldon moved Big Boy hamburgers to Thursdays, a day previously set aside for Souplantation. However, in a later episode, Sheldon mentions that they have pizza on Thursdays as he complains that they have Thai food because Leonard declares it “anything can happen Thursday.”

On Friday nights, it’s Chinese food and vintage video games night.

Every Saturday morning, Sheldon wakes up at 6:15 and eats cereal, with a quarter cup of 2% milk, while sitting on his couch spot watching BBC America’s Dr. Who.

In Season 2, Sheldon explains that Wednesday is new comic book day, after which he goes to Souplantation for creamy tomato soup day. Wednesday is also Halo (3) night.

On Mondays, Sheldon likes to eat Thai food: mie krob and chicken satay with extra peanut sauce from Siam Palace. In a conversation with another female sycophant, he says that on Thursdays, he eats pizza from Gaiocomo’s — sausage, mushrooms and light olives.

For breakfasts on Mondays, Sheldon likes to eat oatmeal.

Thai Food Mondays is confirmed in S2E16, when Leonard brings Sheldon his usual cashew chicken, albeit not from the restaurant of Sheldon’s choice.

Howard, on Sundays, scams hippie chicks at the farmer’s market with Raj.

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6 thoughts on “Food in the Big Bang Theory

  1. Most of the time they seem to play with their food and not eat it. Just tossing it or mixing it with the forks or chop sticks. And it is almost always the same action.

  2. Big Bang Theory is my favorite series too! And it's interesting for you to notice the food. Nakakatakam nga. A lot of their conversations, after all, come during the communal meal, whether it's Indian food night, Chinese food night, or even the simple Spaghetti with hotdog slices between Sheldon and Penny. Haha!

  3. @Rakesh What else do YOU do with your food? I toss mine, mix it and…wait…wait..I eat it! Just like they do! And the actors who don't have lines eat a lot…which is probably why Raj is the "plumpest." He can't talk in front of Penny…Remember?I don't eat and talk at the same time and since these scenes last 45 seconds to 90 seconds while my dinner lasts 30 minutes…I'm not shoving food in my mouth all the time either.

  4. You forgot to mention that Sheldon doesn't like lamb…as the "mean Indian lady tried to make me eat charred pieces of meat"…but this is still very well researched!! It's a wonder they don't get fat with all the food they eat!! LOL!!

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