Kitchen Therapy

I scheduled a heavy course load this semester: three 500 level seminars, one 400, and one audited German class to make sure I don’t completely lose the language. All of those classes are several hours in the afternoon, meaning they don’t end until dinnertime Monday through Wednesday (5pm, 6pm, and 4:30pm respectively). This means that I’m extremely hungry and near brain dead when I get home.

Extreme Post-Seminar Fatigue symptoms include but are not limited to a.) dismal wonder at the fact that you did not have to do all of the reading to understand and participate in class and what sort of field have are you going into if you can do that, b.) regret that you didn’t do all of the reading as it would have made discussion much clearer and/or actually productive and what kind of a scholar are you, really, or c.) slow-release horror that you did all of the reading and failed both to process discussion and to participate meaningfully.

Solutions can include, sleeping, drinking, and/or cooking

Cooking has become my all-purpose solution more often than not. Hot food of any kind takes care of hunger, but the act of cooking brings my brain back to a functioning state. I understand cooking, and I like cooking. The process of chopping things, sautéing, roasting, and tasting is meditative, and being able to accomplish something that includes leftovers is rewarding even on bad days.

I’ve been turning to soups and stews a lot, both because it gives me an excuse to use the cast iron dutch oven my grandparents gave me, and because Winter has made me forget what it feels like to feel warm. Here are three of my favorites that I’ve made the past few weeks:

Egyptian Tomato Soup: Halfway through one bowl, I realized my tongue was burning and my sinuses were clearer than they’d been all week. It was amazing. It’s a small batch, so I’d recommend doubling it. An immoderate squeeze of lime is indispensable. (Gluten-free, vegan friendly if you use vegetable stock)

Broken Wonton Soup: Mark Bittman has never disappointed me, and I consult him more than any other food writer or cook book author. (Sorry, Julia. Sorry, Irma.) That being said, I did modify this recipe a fair amount to work with what I already had (it’s February in Illinois, I’m not going to the store if I can improvise). Instead of 1 lb. of ground pork, I used a pound of Iowa sausage my dad gave me and cut the meat out of the casings. I forgot to pick up ginger and didn’t have 5 spice powder, so I added a good dash of powdered ginger and ignored the 5 spice powder (it was still good). The mixture didn’t form neat little meatballs, it was a little too wet, but I got some rough looking wontons-sans-papers and they cooked just fine. I used dried shiitakes (more convenient and more cost effective) and strained the water I used to rehydrate them through a paper towel to use as a stock. Using soba noodles instead of wonton skins was the only part of the recipe that was a pain, as I had to cook and rinse them before starting everything else. If you’re willing to use more than one pot like I wasn’t, you’ll probably avoid this. Bittman recommends adding sriracha when serving. I agree.

Lamb Stew: This makes a ton and is really good to make ahead for lunches for the week. I used beef, because my normal grocery store has stopped stocking lamb, and had it over rice. If you can let the meat absorb the seasonings for 24 hours like they recommend, do it. (Gluten-free if you treat it like a soup and don’t serve it over anything).

Chocolate: Just get some chocolate and eat it. It will make you feel better. It will make your life better.

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One comment

  1. I wish food and eating and cooking could be my cure for mental fatigue. Usually I just watch some shows. Sometimes when I’m really, really stressed, I watch stupid shows. But that’s just me. I agree with the chocolate though.

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