Harvest bowl. Double sweet potato. No nuts. Add avo. Balsamic vinegar instead of the vinaigrette.
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I could recite our order in my sleep. Of course I could. For the 18 months we were together, we got the exact same dinner at the exact same Sweetgreen every single night. When the weather permitted, we’d go to “our” outdoor bench. If not, we’d got to his apartment, watch Shark Tank, and fork kale and chicken into our mouths to the tune of Barbara coo-ing “I’m out.”
Almost 550 days. Almost 550 and I never got sick of that salad. And I never got sick of him.
Maybe it was love, or maybe (okay, more likely) it was codependency, but I thought we’d live on lettuce and love forever. I really did.
And then he sucked face (and uh, lower than face) with my best friend.
I thought that meant a future of kale and autumnal toppings with him went out the window. But it actually meant a future with him — and a future of kale and autumnal toppings — would both go out the window.
The day after we broke up I went to the same Sweetgreen we used to go to. I repeated our, er, the order.
“And one for your boyfriend?” an employee in a ‘beets don’t kill my vibe shirt’ asked. I should have just told her we broke up. But I was in denial. I paid for the two salads and left. And never went back.
Well, goodbye salad bowl.
Fast forward through snot like lava down my face, a hate filled “block” (or two), a spontaneous hair trim, the decision to boycott the eatery that reminded me too much of him, and a 60-minute Skype sesh with my crock-pot loving therapist — and suddenly I was the proud owner of a crock pot.
The first meal I made was supposed to be “chicken noodle soup.” It tasted like warm celery water. Then I made buffalo chicken dip. It looked like watery vom and tasted like it, too. Then came beef ragu, turkey chili, quinoa casserole, thyme chicken stew…
One after the other tasted like liquidy meat pudding. At best. Even the quinoa casserole.
Nothing like meat-splooge to remind you of who you’re not breaking bread (or bed frames) with anymore!
I called my Mom to complain about being sad, single, and down a “friend” — plus, the accumulation of trash in the kitchen.
“You’re cooking with your brain. You have to cook with your guts and your heart,” she said. But my guts were still in knots! And my heart (!) was (!) otherwise (!) occupied (!).
Still, I decided to give the chicken soup recipe a second chance.
This time I went all in. I turned off my phone and computer. I chopped, cooked, and minced without any podcasts, music, or TV show in the background.
And when the pot made its lil beeping “done” noise, I took ladle to stock, then stock to my mouth.
Needs salt… also, a bay leaf?
And maybe some chili powder?
I trusted my taste buds. I added the ingredients and let them ~ infuse ~ the broth with more flavor. Then, two hours later, I was drinking golden broth so good I wasn’t even thinking about He Who Should Not Be Named.
Over the next weeks and months, I kept cooking, and the food kept getting better. Better than double sweet potato, no nuts, add avo.
And the more I cooked, well, the less “otherwise occupied” my heart became.
Using a slow cooker doesn’t make me a chef. It doesn’t even make me original. But it is what helped me heal. And over a year later, I still prefer my creations to that copycat order.
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Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Follow her on Instagram.