I don’t want to mince words. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Understandably, the uncertainty of the situation and the solitude of social distancing are making people feel all types of ways. It’s me. I’m people.
But seriously, it’s OK to be worried during this time. It’s totally fine to do what you need to do to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 outbreak. Self-care looks different for everyone.
What you shouldn’t be worried about right now is gaining weight. If you’re tweeting about the #QuarantineFifteen, you’re not only being supremely insensitive to people with eating disorders who are struggling right now, you’re also taking the comfort out of something people have used to comfort themselves for generations: food.
In an age when diet culture and fatphobia reign supreme, emotional eating has somehow been painted as a bad thing. Instead, think of it as a tool in your toolbox of ways to feel better. In fact, science says happy eating puts you in a better mood.
With that in mind, here are five recipes to help you deal with some common quarantine emotions.
Disclaimer: None of these recipes are “diet-friendly.” I am not a vegan. I am not sober. I am lactose intolerant, and I ignore it. My suggestions are only to make what sounds good to you, what feels right for you. Substitute things out as necessary and remember that all foods (unless you’re allergic or intolerant) are good foods.
My first few days of social distancing were met with nonstop tears. Nothing helped… except baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!
P.S. Don’t allow the cookies to cool. Eat them all in one sitting. That part is imperative to your ~healing.~
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg (no idea if the size of egg matters)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (a little extra is still delicious… which I know because my hand slipped)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (the salt from your tears is NOT enough)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup uncooked oats
- Literally however many chocolate chips you want!!!!
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Nuke that stick of butter for about 30 seconds, or until it looks like the Titanic sinking into itself (so, half melted, half just softened).
- Get a big bowl. Mix butter and both kinds of sugar in said big bowl until sugar has dissolved. Then, add egg (which you’ve cracked open — don’t be weird) and vanilla. Whisk this all up.
- Add flour, salt, and baking soda to the big bowl of buttery egg sugar. If you’re crying into the bowl and that’s making the mixture too wet to make into little cookie balls, add a tablespoon of extra flour and see if that helps.
- Once the dough seems even throughout and firm enough to shape, fold in oats and chocolate chips. (There’s likely a good chef way to do this. I used my hands.)
- Make the dough into balls the size of your choosing. Don’t eat the raw cookie dough. (*wink, wink*)
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until just the edges look golden. The middle of the cookies will look puffy like your face from hours of crying.
This one is a freestyle. When you’re one coronavirus article away from a panic attack, calm that body down with any carb and any cheese of your choosing. Grilled cheese, Lunchables charcuterie — it’s catharsis!
I often make one of my fave comfort foods: Lebanese manousheh, a classic in the Sultan household.
- Naan or pizza dough (if this is uncooked, you’ll need to add time to the cooking, obviously) or tortillas or a similar thin, flatbread-like bread
- 1/4 cup za’atar
- 2–3 tablespoons olive oil
- Halloumi or Akawi or Armenian braided cheese or mozzarella
- Combine za’atar and olive oil. I don’t like my mix to be too runny, so I’ll add za’atar until it’s spreadable but not wet.
- Put za’atar mixture on the type of bread you chose.
- Put literally as much cheese as you can fit on top of the za’atar mixture.
- Put it in the toaster oven or normal oven until the edges are golden and crispy (5 to 7 minutes, depending on heat).
- Furiously consume the manousheh.
Remember that sometimes when we feel other emotions like stress or anxiety, we’re actually just pissed (or vice versa). Either way, if you have pent-up energy you need to get out, you can beat up some potatoes and you will feel better. Take your anger out on some potatoes, baby. I won’t tell.
- 2 pounds potatoes (I literally just choose whatever potatoes, but the internet says it’s imperative to use Yukon Gold potatoes)
- Lots of salt to salt the water
- More salt (added based on your taste buds)
- Pepper (also added to suit your tastes)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, or a little over 5 tablespoons
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup milk (or heavy cream — he-he)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Peel the potatoes. Just use a potato peeler — don’t get cocky and try to use a knife. Then cut them in half and halve the halves.
- Put those potatoes in a big pot of heavily salted water (think Samin Nosrat in the “Salt” episode of “Salt Fat Acid Heat”). The water should cover the potatoes by an inch or two. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium. The potatoes will be tender after 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the potatoes are in their little bath, heat up the butter on the stove. Cook the garlic (in that butter) for 1 to 2 minutes. Heat the milk.
- Drain the potatoes and add the butter, garlic, heated milk, and sour cream.
- Mash the sh*t out of the potatoes until they’re smooth.
- Put Parmesan on top.
- Pretend you’re going to garnish the mashed potatoes, but don’t. Just eat them.
Honestly, my suggestion here is to go to the store the next time you need essentials and pick up a box of Kraft mac and cheese (the kind that comes in fun shapes like minions or SpongeBob) and make that. Ain’t nothing better than powdered cheese and the smell of your favorite preschool meal to remind your belly to be hungry.
But if you have the patience to make it from scratch, here we go.
- 1 pound pasta (I like rigatoni or elbow macaroni)
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 large ball of burrata (the key to my heart)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Ritz crackers, breadcrumbs, or panko
- LACTAID PILLS (optional)
- Cook pasta on the stove until al dente (aka not too soft and squishy and weird).
- In a pot, melt butter, and then add flour and whisk until it’s darkened and blended until smooth. (I have learned on the internet that this is called a roux.)
- Add cream and whisk. Let the cream cook for about 7 minutes (it will get thicc).
- Add Asiago and Gruyere and whisk the sh*t out of it until the cheese has melted.
- Add ricotta.
- Add salt to taste.
- Stir pasta into cheese mixture until it’s all combined, and then put the pasta and cheese into something that can go into the oven (like a Pyrex dish or a cast-iron skillet).
- Then, shove small pieces of burrata into the mac and cheese. (Are you drooling yet?)
- Sprinkle cheddar and Ritz crackers/breadcrumbs on top.
- Broil the whole thing for about 7 minutes or until the cheese looks golden and the breadcrumbs look crispy.
- If you’re not hungry after simply READING this recipe, then take a nap and try again. Remember to take your Lactaid pills (if necessary) before consuming.
Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you realize this is the new normal for the time being. You’ll be able to find contentment through resignation to this situation. That was around day nine of social distancing for me.
Once you accept this situation and start to settle in, may I recommend a fancy cocktail? The cocktail extends the length of time you feel content… trust me.
- 1/4 of a lemon
- Fresh mint
- 2 shots botanical gin (I like Gunpowder Irish Gin)
- 1 cup elderflower lemonade (or more or less, depending on how strong you want it to taste)
- Squeeze lemon into a cup.
- Muddle lemon juice and lemon quarter with some fresh mint.
- Add gin and elderflower lemonade.
- Do the fancy mixing thing bartenders do when they shake it up in a shaker with some ice cubes (or mix it with a spoon like a normal person).
I’ll leave this up to your interpretation. A pint of ice cream? A pint of beer? A pint of green juice? The world may never know, but you’re entitled to them all.
I hope this list helps you eat your emotions in a way that satisfies your hunger and your need for comfort. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m starving after putting together all of these recipes. Bon appétit!
Reina Sultan (she/her) is a Lebanese-American Muslim woman working on gender and conflict issues at her nine-to-five. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for endless hot takes and photos of her extremely cute cats.