Dear Glutton: Healing Through Food
Comfort food for a post-election world
Well, shit. Now what?
Oh man, I know. I know, I know. For most of us blue-dot-in-a-red-state bleeding heart liberal types, this week has been a rough one. I'm a big fan of turning to food for comfort in times of trouble, but this week I haven't been able to eat at all. When I could manage to make myself eat something, my choices have been sporadic and strange. I've been sitting on the floor of my kitchen eating crispy white bread with Nutella and sea salt. I've baked an entire package of bacon and just looked at it, greasy and limp on the plate. I've eaten a whole head of kale for dinner, cereal out of the box, slice after slice of slightly stale red velvet cake. I've held a couple of disintegrating sandwiches over the sink, and had Lone Stars with potato chips for dinner, because hell, what else is there? Why should any of us have to act like adults right now? I suspect, dear reader, that you have found yourself in the same position.
If you've been celebrating this week, your foods are obvious. There's champagne and hors d'oeuvres, square slices of the more expensive varieties of supermarket cake, communal foods, foods for parties and celebrations. Some kind of seafood tower. Steak. Crème brûlée. But the food of mourning is more specific. Each one of us knows what comforts us best. Maybe it's an entire box of store brand macaroni & cheese topped with sriracha, or just chocolate, and lots of it. Or fast food burgers, cinnamon toast, a whole jar of pickled cocktail onions. So the first step is, I think, to find a really good grocery store and stock up – stay in bed for a whole weekend, eating entire blocks of cheese with your hands. Antonelli's is, of course, a good resource for this. And then, when you're ready, get out of bed and go out to dinner with the people you love.
This weekend, a friend and I were talking about how all she's wanted to eat since the election was funeral food. In her family, this meant big trays of Church's chicken with all the fixin's, biscuits, a pound of potato salad, pickles, and sweet tea. My mother's family served Jell-O salad and fluffy Pullman rolls, milky and sweet. When my best friend's mother died in high school, I sat with her in her kitchen, surrounded by picked-over plates of bagels and lox, the pink sprawl of fish, the smell of raw onions and smoke filling up the empty spaces of the room. The important thing here is comfort and quantity. You want the kind of food you'd be served by someone's solicitous mama, something warm and carby, and lots of it. Nubian Queen Lola's Cajun Soul Food is where you can find me seeking this kind of solace. Lola, who runs the joint, is warm and kind, and will pour you a glass of Kool-Aid when you sit down, ask you how you're feeling, about your day. Order mac & cheese and mustard greens, cornbread and red beans and pork chops. Ask your friends how they're holding up. Listen.
It has been a hard week. There will, sadly, probably be many hard weeks ahead. But the thing that I love most about food is how it can help us connect, to build community even in the most difficult times. We come together. We have a meal. We sit across the table from one another and look into each other's eyes. For a while, we feel a little more human.