I haven’t been shy about talking about my diet (or lack thereof) and my struggles with cooking as a single Southerner. But there has been something particular about this moment in history, you know, with the pandemic and all; that has made me very aware of food as comfort, routine and escape. So let’s talk about some of the ways I’ve used food to cope: for better or worse.
Domino’s Pan Pizza with Pepperoni and Ham
I moved last year and this complex has a gate that works and is entirely too big. I was fine with ordering carry out and picking food up (obviously, based on my weight) but I hadn’t had something delivered in a while. I don’t know what turned me back onto Domino’s but something did and I discovered that their pan pizza is perfect. Fatty, rich, greasy, cheesy and exactly what I needed on days where I was either too busy or too apathetic to do anything but have food delivered to my home. Go figure, luckily, my complex is a pretty regular stop so no driver has gotten lost yet. They leave my pizza on my doorstep, wait patiently for me to pick up my food and sign my receipt and the whole thing is over: sorta like paid sex in an alley. But the weekly routine of ordering pizza, watching it go through the Pizza Tracker until it arrives at my door; hot, inviting, comforting and ready to distract me from the pains of the day.
Breakfast is possibly one of my favorite meals of the day. Working an office job and having a mental illness means I don’t get to eat breakfast very often or eat one that’s of any nutritional value (I do love breakfast tacos even though I know they’ll be the death of me) but now with a medication that I have to take in the morning that absolutely wrecks my stomach if I don’t eat; breakfast have become a beautiful ritual in the morning. I’ve reminded myself that I love cereal and love waffles and pancakes and lots of maple syrup and bacon and toast with butter and jam. Coffee is a stunning alchemical reaction made possible by my Keurig and the smell of maple syrup warmed by pancakes. Also, an aside to cereal, I love cereal. I rarely keep it in the house but good lord I can go through a box of Honeycomb or Captain Crunch. Breakfast has become a sacred kind of prayer and a vital part of the routine that helps me settle into working from home.
Chocolate Silk Pie from Whole Foods Market
I have a huge sweet tooth. This is not new information. What may be a shock is that I can be very picky about my sweets. Chocolate silk pie is something that is rarely done well but when done can be as close to God’s light as possible. Chocolate cookie crust, chocolate custard filling, sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls; just sublime. But if you cut corners during any part of these ingredients you get what is essentially a dirt cup in a cheap pie shell. Luckily, my podcast means I am often at Whole Foods Market hunting for fine cheeses and that means I get access to slices of their very delicious and very sweet and very well made chocolate silk pie. Each piece is a little taste of decadence that reminds me of a time far more simple and far more kind than the current pandemic world we live in.
What I’ve Been Cooking
Long time readers of the blog will know that I have struggled to cook for one person since my girlfriend left me and now that I am in a new apartment with a nicer and larger kitchen, that struggle has continued. Thanks to the clarity of antidepressants and the need to cook due to restaurants being open and cravings not understanding how pandemics work: I have been cooking more than ever. So here are a few of the things I’ve made that I am particularly proud of.
I love chicken katsu. Absolutely love it. It may be one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It may be a simple chicken cutlet with sauce that is too sweet but dammit it’s the exact kind of comfort food that speaks to my soul as a dual-culturalist. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about frying food at home, even though it is a little messy and I did question many times if it was worth the effort until I took that first crunchy bite and was told that yes, it was indeed worth it.
Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrot
Like most millennials, I have started pickling as a means to run away from the existential pain of realizing that we are helpless in the face of a capricious world in the midst of a pandemic. Pickled carrot and daikon is a staple of Korean BBQ and something I will easily get from my friends or fight for: the tang of vinegar and sweetness of fruit always makes me happy and I’m more than fine with stealing my friends’ portions if they don’t go for it quickly enough much like I am with gari (pickled ginger) while at sushi restaurants. It wasn’t a difficult recipe to make: just mirin and sugar and time. I did have a small struggle finding a daikon radish during a pandemic until I remembered I have a ton of Asian grocery stores around me and of course, Tim’s Oriental Market had the radish I needed. The crunch and tang of vinegar was fantastic and eating what counts as a veggie made my friends quite happy as well.
Cakes. Too Many Cakes
So. I stress bake. What is a pandemic but stress? I’ve been baking for myself, for friends, to keep busy, to try new things, to find meaning since the pandemic began. It mostly started as a kind gesture for some friends who had their store opened back up way too soon despite being far from essential as a little token of goodwill and support. From there, I just kept going. I’ve made cinnamon maple apple muffins, gooey butter cake, caramel apple monkey bread, strawberry cake with vanilla frosting: anything to keep my hands busy and more importantly; anything I can do to help ease some of the stress my friends are going through.
These are a few of the things I’ve been eating during the pandemic. It hasn’t been healthy, I’m not ashamed of that; but in places it certainly has been comforting. The return to the routine of making food sacred is nice and comforting especially during these uneasy times and anything I can do to help make those I care about smile is something I’m more than happy to do.
Stay safe, stay well, stay kind.