05 September 2014

Comfort Food for Plague Years

The universe has a reputation as a cruel and heartless place. Well deserved by most reasonable measures, measures highlighted by the cascade of disturbing news that washes over our daily lives. There is no escaping it, it seems. Horrifying words, images, and sounds burst forth from the screens of whatever electronic device is the weapon of choice in front of our scratched and bleeding senses.

Plague. War. Civil unrest. Even the perhaps lesser evil of data theft, private lives smeared across the ether in a toxic blur of titillation. Everything becomes pornography now, because the trend is think that having an impulse to consume grants the right to consume whatever it is the appetite wants. All because the access is supposedly granted because the victims deserved it and should not have put it "out there" in public.

The fundamental flaw with that line of consumption is that the victims (that is the correct word) do not choose to become violently ill, get murdered by rockets, or be shot for the sake of public display. No one expects their private stuff to get stolen (and data classifies as 'stuff') when they have taken reasonable precautions to keep the stuff from those who do not have permission to possess it.

No one blames the depositors for a bank heist that cleans out the safe deposit boxes. No one blames a kid who gets shredded by shrapnel because he was in the wrong place. No one with any common decency, that is.

All of this has weighed heavily on my mind in recent weeks. From the shooting of Michael Brown to the Russian tanks in Ukraine to the nasty virus eating up West Africa, the plague of bad news has been inescapable. Partly my fault, I know, because I listen to a lot of news while driving in my car.

But partly, it is due to the sheer volume of nastiness going on in the world. The funk thickened today, gelling around my psyche like smothering epoxy. Escape was necessary. The path was an unlikely one, paved as it was with two cans of tuna fish and a bag of egg noodles. Somewhere out on the road today, I did not see a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, but my back brain conspired with my belly to convince me I wanted tuna noodle casserole for dinner. It was a stroke of culinary genius.

I had not eaten homemade tuna noodle casserole in decades. The genesis of the idea burbled up in that little kitchen I fancy takes up some space in my brain. In there a slightly frazzled chef hunched over a butcher block table, scribbling ideas in a tattered ledger about what appeasements will be made to the maw that growls under his stained jacket. Today it was the memory of some oddments in the pantry that inspired this jaunt back to food from my youth, food that I had given no consideration except mild scorn and bemusement on the rare occasion when its name would arise in conversation.

Yet today it made perfect sense. I had the tuna and the noodles. A quick trip to the grocery store for milk, celery, peas, and mushrooms took care of the rest. Done with my work for the day, I stood and the kitchen and commenced meditation. Make no mistake, that is what this dish was all about. Cooking, centering, breathing. So simple, so clear, and so far away from the misery outside the walls that I ceased thinking about bad news.

It is important to note that this was mostly from scratch. I had no desire to shortcut the process by getting a box of pre-made "helper", or a tub of something from the local grocery. I wanted to build this thing, tweaking it to meet my needs and wants. Any grace to be gained would have been lost if all I did was rip open the box, pour it in a pan and set it in the oven. There would have been nothing learned. My mind would not have settled. My breathing would not have slowed. I made it the way it asked of me, and it was completely satisfying. This is all I ask of comfort food in the plague years.


  1. Comfort food...it always seems to come from what we knew as children. In a way, it is like "hug" from mommy, a reverting to our childhood when we felt safe, protected and loved.

  2. Tuna casserole. Now there's a memory: my two sisters, baby brother chowing down. Me? "Eewww. I hate tuna casserole, Mom!"
    Maybe yours--contemplative, inventive, decades later--would have changed my opinion... ;D

    1. Heehee. I used to hate tuna casserole…but that is because I did not understand that my mom made it as an act of love.

  3. Not even love could make me eat my mother's tuna casserole...;D


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...