Chaos cooking, coup soup and health anxiety
Don't take your temperature after eating this soup
This week: Cooking amidst chaos, a comforting soup to make during coups and insurrections, and tips for managing health anxiety.
My most recent FreshDirect order arrived on January 6th, just as domestic terrorists were breaching the capitol’s surprising meager security. I wanted to apologize to the driver for placing a delivery order during a coup, but of course he was gone before I got to the door to retrieve the bags full of ingredients for three different kinds of soup. In the last days of this administration, soup is all I can handle.
Lately every meal I’ve made I’ve forgotten at least one step or one ingredient. And even though everything has tasted ok in the end, the kitchen stress was one more form of anxiety I didn’t need.
I had a friend over for dinner on the deck a couple weeks ago.—a social plan that used to be so easy but now involves waiting for a day of over 50 temperatures with no rain in the forecast and ordering an outdoor heater off Amazon. I made this lemony shrimp and bean stew that’s become a go-to favorite since I made it for the first time last winter. If all I can handle is soup, it should at least be really good soup.
But of course I ran out of paprika and had to replace some of it with chipotle. And I forgot to sauté the leeks before adding the shrimp and then had to let the stew simmer longer to soften the leeks without, miraculously, overcooking the shrimp. Somehow I also managed to get it on the table as soon as my friend arrived, since there can be no casual chit chat over the stove these days. That was my most successful chaos cooking adventure.
On coup day I was planning to make this farro and escarole soup from Bon Appetit (boo, I know) and ordered from FreshDirect because I didn’t want to go to five stores in search of escarole myself. But when I unpacked the groceries there was no escarole, just a bag of romaine I hadn’t ordered.
Do they not label the produce bins in the FreshDirect warehouse?
I didn’t use Instacart because I didn’t expect a shopper for hire to accurately identify escarole in the jumbled leafy greens section of Wegman’s. I didn’t even trust myself to make the correct ID without pulling out a half dozen lettuces to inspect their stems, that’s why I brought FreshDirect into this in the first place. But apparently even the pros don’t know their watercress from their butterhead.
I couldn’t put romaine in soup though. So I logged off early from the work Slack where people were still typing away in the middle of an insurrection and marched over to Mr. Mango. I WAS going to make soup! I would NOT be derailed by the world around me succumbing to lawlessness!
They only had arugula.
I soldiered on. Arugula was a suitable substitute. Back home, I chopped vegetables while listening intently to NPR and and watch the broth come to a boil with a live feed of protesters milling casually about in the background.
The soup was delicious and exactly what I needed, comfort food that didn’t involve hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. And it was something new now. I’d swapped in vegetarian chicken broth for water and upped the garlic (like always). The modified recipe is at least partially mine now, so maybe you can feel a little less bad about cooking up a BA soup in light of…everything? (You don’t even have to click through to the site!)
Is this version better than the original? We’ll never find out, because absolutely no one knows what escarole looks like.
Coup Soup (pronounced KOO-SOO)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. capers
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup farro
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal
4 cups torn arugula
1 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about ¼ cup)
9 cups no-chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook garlic, capers, and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, for 4–6 minutes.
Add onion, farro, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add 9 cups vegetarian chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until farro is tender (about 20–25 minutes).
Add celery and cook, uncovered, until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in arugula and parmesan and continue to cook until arugula is wilted. Season with salt again. Serve in front of the TV while watching CNN.
Coping with health anxiety
Last spring my Covid hypochondria was out of control. It wasn’t entirely unwarranted—I did come down with a mild (probable) case of coronavirus. But the fear took over when I considered how my mild case might turn into something more serious, which I wrote about in a recent essay for The Huffington Post.
Once I recovered, the fear for my health began to fade, but never quite disappeared, especially as more and more people reported becoming sick with the virus a second time. In the process of trying to get my anxiety under control, I searched for some expert advice on hypochondria which, I learned, has been rebranded as “health anxiety” in the DSM-5. There are lots of resources for coping with intrusive thoughts about your health, but these are the things that have been helping me:
Not taking my temperature: On the surface, this goes against some health guidance. I’m not suggesting that you not take your temperature if you’re actually feeling sick or you have to go to work or otherwise be around people you could expose to the virus if you are ill. I mean not taking your temperature as a way to sooth your anxiety, because your temperature can vary so much during a day or due to environmental factors. Small shifts in temperature did more to freak me out than reassure me. If you are going to take your temperature, make sure not to do it after eating or drinking something hot, and keep in mind that your temperature usually is higher in the evenings.
Using a pulse oximeter instead: I’ve read that your pulse oximeter reading is likely to be a better indication of whether you have Covid or not, and it’s less susceptible to errors due to environmental factors. Apparently they do have a higher error rate among black patients, though, so keep that in mind.
Not Googling: This took some real discipline for me, but as long as you know the symptoms of Covid to watch out for right now, Googling symptoms is more likely to trigger anxiety than offer real useful information. I’ve made a deal with myself that if I really think something might be wrong, I need to call or visit a doctor. And since I don’t like talking to people or going to appointments, I often find that my “symptoms” aren’t that alarming after all.
Distracting myself with a podcast: Podcasts are usually my distraction of choice, but the key is to just get your mind off your health. If the “symptom” I’m agonizing over in my head goes away the second I’m distracted, it was probably a figment of my imagination.
Go to the doctor: So far, this has meant doing virtual visits or a quick trip to the urgent care if I’m *actually* sick, but I plan on being more on the ball about yearly physicals once it feels safer to go to the doctor. If I know I’ve had a recent, thorough physical, I expect I’ll feel less of a sneaking suspicion that something is going wrong inside without my knowledge.
And now, a fun story about hypochondria from one of my favorite stand-ups:
Anne Helen Petersen on the absurd expectation to work through a coup. (If 9/11 happened today, would we even look up from our laptops?)
A gorgeous essay by my friend Justine about her disappointment in the Polish American community and its failure to stand up for black lives.
What are you cooking to calm yourself? (And is it working?) Email me.
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