Cooking My Way Through This

I was scrolling through Twitter like every tweet was a bump of coke, when a post by my friend Willie stopped me:

The next day, I spent two hours taking in no other information but the sound of onions sizzling, the smell of home-made tomato soup, and the sight of the bread toasting as I peeked to make sure it was just crisping, but not burning.

It was the calmest I’ve been in days. As someone who has generalized anxiety disorder, a part of me feeds on the panic, like it’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life, the external world mirroring the dread inside me.

People are dying, people are jobless, people are scared. My job is to stay put. And while I’m doing that, I’m making myself good food.

Cooking is calming.

The creation of food from ingredients requires your attention. Usually, I listen to boppy, lyrical music while I cook (think Girl from Ipanema). But right now it’s all Max Richter and classical. I take out the knife. I center the onion. I cut off its crispy top. I line the knife up to bisect the root. I tuck my fingertips in. No stitches. Not now.

I pour the oil, which reflects the light. I turn on the heat and wait for it to shimmer hot. I throw in the garlic, watch the bubbles form, stir it so it doesn’t burn.

It’s so simple I ache.

And when I’m done, I call to Vicki, my roommate, and we sit and she, who doesn’t feed herself like I feed myself during a panic, is so thankful.

Cooking is comforting.

Right now, my feelings take like porchetta. On my first trip to the grocery store, I was responsible. The second week, I shopped like a five-year-old, Cookie Crisp and ice cream. Now, I’m leveling out to the healthy-ish comforts of real food. As Michael Pollen has said, a good rule is that you can eat whatever you want, as long as you make it.

Good food just feels good. Healthy-ish, whole food is what we need. Sugar and alcohol (not that I’m avoiding those entirely) will make us crash. We need to sustain our bodies.

I’m making a lot of my favorite classics, food with fond memories attached.

Vicki is tickled by the thought of eating this.

Cooking is cost-saving.

Times are about to get tough. Our lifestyles might have to shrink back a little bit. When we order out or eat at restaurants, we’re really paying for someone else to do our chores. Over your lifetime, preparing a good portion of your own food will have a huge effect on how much money you save

Want to cook a bit, too?

If you have no idea what you’re doing:

Don’t worry, I started there, too. I knew nothing, and I mean nothing, until I was 26 and was forced to learn.

Start with easy recipes and get down the basics:

Learning to cook can seem overwhelming, so you’ve got to start where you can get a pleasant finished product from the least amount of culinary knowledge.

  • Roast a chicken: Popping a chicken in the oven for some reason looks fancy, it feeds you all week, and it’s actually hella easy. Get a meat thermometer! I never cook without one.
  • Get a good freezable soup: I could eat this soup forever. (I leave out the spinach by the way.)
  • Learn an easy lunch: Right now I have a freezer full of these burritos. Use black beans and enjoy!
FaceTiming with a bestie while my onions cook.

If you’re feeding a crowd:

These recipes can be doubled to feed a crew or last for meals to come.

  • Make a healthier lasagna: I’ve made this spinach artichoke lasagna at least a dozen times.
  • Try a new shepherd’s pie: This is such a go-to. Last week I got lazy and just microwaved a sweet potato instead of doing the real topping. It’s worth the effort. I usually leave out the chickpeas.
  • Make a comforting chicken soup: This one uses pearl couscous instead of noodles. If you’re not going to use the entire batch, save some without the couscous, and add that in later. My leftovers soaked up the liquid like little sponges.

If you want to practice a special meal:

Once you’re allowed to see your human friends again, you can treat them to a special meal you learned while in quarantine. Here are a few of my favorites.

Above-mentioned pork with delicata squash rounds. (I like delicata because you can eat the skin!)

Have an Asian market near you?

Support the markets that have been unduly punished because people suck, and try some of these recipes you can only make with specialty ingredients.

  • Korean Barbecue at Home: This is an ordeal, but it’s a fun and delicious one, too. 
  • Momofuku’s Bo Ssam: This might literally be the most delectable thing you put in your mouth, ever. If you don’t eat it with a family, I don’t know how you’ll stop yourself from finishing it. Probably the pain. 
  • Ramen: I haven’t done this yet, but I want to take the “ramen school,” on this YouTube channel.

Whatever you do, take care of yourself.

I had one real bad day, and I didn’t cook that day. I reached out to friends and said I was accepting any extra love bombs anyone had, and I got exactly what I needed. I also made this, which is now my phone lock screen and my laptop’s background.

May you get through this.

What recipes do you recommend?

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