food is medicine

This post was due for November, and we’re now in the second week of the president that led me to write this post and make this chicken in the first place. 48% of the population would agree with me when I say that November 9th was just the worst. That was a confusing day, a foggy day, and I couldn’t even stomach eating anything until about 2 pm when I went to get some breakfast tacos to eat in my car before I picked up the girl I nanny from school.

She is the sweetest girl, and I was so happy and so sad to see her that day. We had talked about the election as much as you could talk about it with a seven year old, and she goes to a girl’s school like I did, and we love each other. She got in my car and I asked how she was doing. At first, she said my car smelled bad from the tacos. But then she paused and said how sad she was. I talked to her but every word out of my mouth turned to tears and I didn’t want to cry even more so I think I stayed quieter than usual.

When we got to her house, her mom had made a bowl of guacamole and set it out for us with tortilla chips and two glasses of Topo Chico. All of us sat and ate and talked about the day, tried to reconcile everything and tried to come to terms with being so confused and so sad. Lila wanted to stop talking about it then. So I played with her and her little sisters, for a long long time. We played a game where I was in jail in their parents’ closet, my cell constructed under suit jackets and jeans where I was shielded from everything and just steeping in my own silence and sadness with such beautiful, effervescent little girls around me. That was that day. I barely wanted to leave closet-jail that night.

That Friday, I wanted to–needed to–really cook. At the time, I hadn’t for a while, becoming too reliant on Trader Joe’s actually-pretty-delicious soup dumplings. I braved Central Market on a Friday evening, picked up a chicken, and invited Kobi and my sister over to eat with me. I made Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken from Cooking for Jeffrey, the first meal I had cooked out of it. She has become a meme of sorts in circles that don’t actually understand her, but the existence of Ina Garten and the food she makes is truly one of my greatest comforts in this world. Watching her show grounds me when I’m overwhelmed and cooking her food calms me, reminds me of the brief healing power of a good meal– especially a roast chicken.

When cooking with wine, she always says, “Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.” I try my best to follow her every instruction (with the exception of homemade chicken stock only) but this one is simply unrealistic for me. This was perfectly delicious and beautifully comforting even with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck pinot grigio.

We took the cast-iron skillet into my bedroom since my roommates were congregating in the living room, set it on the floor, and carved the chicken as best we could. I sat with people I loved, mopped up pan juices from a skillet with a hunk of bread, and ate a roast chicken after what was probably the hardest week of my young life.

Food is all of these things: it is caring for people, it is nourishment, it is community, it is pouring yourself into something special. Eating a roast chicken on the floor didn’t fix the country that night, but it put a little more love in our hearts.