As we slowly wind through the COVID labyrinth, skirting crowds, eschewing indoor dining, and devising our own small cooking triumphs, I have learned it isn’t enough just following last year’s trendy sour dough bread bake off. Sometimes we just need to make ourselves happy. We can indulge in little acts of kindness to ourselves, without going all Madison Avenue slick, or woowoo, and espousing themes of “self-care”. Sometimes we just need the comfort food. To have a treat.
Comfort food doesn’t need to be fancy or laden with calories and fat. Comfort food can remind us of our mothers (cinnamon toast), our college roommates (Kraft Mac & cheese, the stuff in the box, with the orange powder) or restaurant meals we enjoyed years ago (burrata and grilled tomatoes). They can help us relive of our child-rearing years – I just bought a bag of Goldfish because we ate so many of them when our children were little, and life was good with fistfuls of Goldfish or Cheerios. Remember, Proust wrote a 7-volume novel because of a bite of a Madeleine cookie.
I just started listening to a new podcast as Luke the wonder dog and I make our neighborhood rounds: FT Weekend, from the Financial Times. It contains only the amusing bits of news that end up in the Financial Times’s weekend magazine. (Trust me, the financial news is not my usual podcast fare.) This week they were talking about the coping mechanisms people were developing to get through the COVID lockdowns. A man in England they cited, rode his bicycle once a week to buy 6 oysters on the half shell. He would sit on a park bench, swallow the oysters, get back on his bike and pedal back to the safety of his home. That was his treat, his indulgence; his brain treat. (Treat Brain: https://www.ft.com/content/1c5a18a1-9b0f-4b16-912b-1aeb60a63162)
When I was in high school, we used to walk down the hill after school to a deli that made excellent meatball subs (except in Connecticut, in that era, they were called grinders*). I remember feeling thrillingly independent buying such an exotic sandwich – something that we never had at home. It was hot, and filling, and the melted mozzarella cheese stretched forever. The memory of those grinders wafted through my brain the other day, and I had to treat myself.
It seems silly to have a recipe for a meatball sandwich, but maybe you have never tried your hand at one before. I would say to include plenty of mozzarella cheese, though, which is strangely missing from this recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/italian-meatball-subs/ And I would also say that you should have a side of a large bag of UTZ sour cream and onion potato chips, because who really would have a fruit salad when plumbing the depths of a high school food memory? And maybe a real, 100%, full-throated Coke. This is a one-time treat. Not the rest of your life. And then take a good, long walk. Luke is available.
Since movies have been off limits for a year and a half, we have been having movie nights at home, complete with big bowls of hot, salty, buttery, wonderful popcorn. I will have a weekly bowl of popcorn before I would ever have 6 oysters on a half shell, but that’s me. It’s not quite as magical as sitting in a movie theatre, but the popcorn is better, and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Also, there are no annoying people texting.
We also have a comforting weekly ritual of making pizza on Friday nights. Which we will talk about next week. Maybe I will freeze a couple of meatballs for that event. In the meantime, remember your mask, and try to enjoy yourself.
“With enough butter, anything is good.”