What Comfort Food Looks Like in a Pandemic
Claire Brnjac // Arts and Culture Editor
Talia Rouck // Illustrator
In the time of the bubonic plague, the afflicted ate mint sauce to balance their humours. During the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, the cuisine du jour was similar to the food we eat when we’re sick today: meat soups and citrus juice. In our current pandemic, we have to find our own ways of comforting ourselves. In this piece, four contributors define how food can be healing to someone in a turbulent time.
Indomie Mi Goreng
Kira Dinim // Contributor
One doesn’t often think of instant noodles as life-changing, but as a broke university student, a package of really, really good instant noodles can be just that.
It was an average day at Superstore when I happened upon them by chance; the red and white package shimmered in the fluorescent lights, calling to me. “Indomie Mi Goreng”, I read. It was the price that got me, more than anything else. $1.98 for a pack of five? A steal.
The first bite was revolutionary. An explosion of spice and sweetness, more potent flavour than anything from a package has a right to contain. It made me want to hop on a plane to Indonesia to taste the authentic fried noodles from a street vendor.
A week later, quarantine began. In amongst the fear and uncertainty, my spicy noodles kept me warm through the long nights. They reminded me that the world was wide and waiting to be explored, full of untouched culinary depths and new spices.
The inevitable day came, however, when the last package was gone. I rushed to Superstore, braving the waves of panicked shoppers, only to find barren shelves and disappointment.
Thus began the search. Walmart, sold out. Save-On-Foods, sold out. Nearby convenience stores, only Ichiban. Amazon, sold out. Here, at least, I found others who suffered as I did. Indomie Mi Goreng is apparently something of a phenomenon, and reading the Amazon reviews helped to ease the desperate pain of being separated from my new addiction.
Still, there was no true relief. I began to accept the reality that it would be months before I tasted the heavenly dish again, and times were dark.
Until I peeked into my boyfriend’s pantry, and there they were, as familiar as my own face.The world was suddenly brighter. It felt like a miracle from the noodle gods themselves.
Now, months later, they’re back in stock, and I have three packages of five safely tucked into my pantry.
As a self-professed instant noodle connoisseur, I advise that next time you’re looking for a cheap meal, pass over the Mr. Noodle. Try the Indomie. I beg of you, never buy the last package. I’m afraid of what would happen if I ran out.
Joss Arnott // Staff Writer
Four things are getting me through quarantine: a healthy supply of chocolate bars, the two friends I was trapped with, and cooking.
I really love to cook, and I’m surprisingly good at it. There’s something so rewarding about properly following a recipe and ending up with a halfway decent meal. However, in quarantine, something just…snapped. I, along with many others, stopped giving a fuck. I just started winging it when it came to dinner. At first, my creations were tame, slight variations, nothing too harmful. But slowly, like the receding hairline on your uncle, my food became more and more dubious. I’d usually set out to create some sort of curry. The fun thing about curry is you can really do whatever the hell you want to it and still claim it’s curry, especially if you casually offer it up to your unsuspecting roommates for dinner. Cooking like this really scratches that mad scientist itch. You wield unspeakable power, your stomach’s fate lying in the balance. But even if your food is inedible, you’ll always learn something—even if it’s as simple as never, ever using that much cayenne pepper ever again.
I’m not sure why, but for me, throwing caution to the wind and peanut butter into a pot really does wonders for my psyche.
For those brave enough to try this at home:
Step 1: Place garlic and butter in a pot, cook on medium-high heat until aromatic (approximately one minute.)
Step 2 – 9: ????????????
Step 3: Profit and or Vomit
Chef’s Note: For added fun don’t try the food until it’s already on your plate! No risk, no fun.
Tomato Egg Soup Noodles
Wen Zhai // Contributor
Ever since I started to cook for myself, and I was in need of emotional support, I would always turn to the kind of noodles my mum used to make for me for breakfast when I was in junior middle school.
Depending on the time available, she would boil some fine dried noodles, choosing from several types ranging from the thinnest to the thickest. While the noodles were boiling, she would beat an egg or two and add a bit of salt. After slicing a tomato into pieces resembling lotus petals, she would stir fry them with oil, salt, and other ingredients, and then add some water. When the water started to boil, she calmly spread the egg across the surface in a circle (avoiding the boiling center) and gently stir. As soon as the egg stiffened, the soup was ready. She would then put the noodles in a bowl and pour the tomato and egg soup on top of it. The noodles would get salty and slightly sour from the soup, and the egg jelly was soft and savoury. The cooking and devouring process can be both finished in minutes! It saved me from the panic of running late for school many times and I always remember those rushed mornings fondly.
When I cook for myself sometimes I settle for less complicated soup. But when a kitchen is unavailable, like now, I simply need to bear with instant noodles. They don’t have the same chewy element as the fine dried noodles, but it will do as a substitute. Most importantly, it stands out from dishes offered by the cafeteria, and is the most similar to my all-time comfort food that has sustained me through many trying times.
Claire Brnjac // Arts & Culture Editor
A macaron is a finicky thing. The two delicate outer shells must be airy and light, but slightly chewy at the same time. The inside filling must be flavourful, but not overpowering. The whole confection must exist in harmony, as any off section will take the experience from a heavenly symphony to a lumpy, middle school band.
I’ve made macarons a grand total of two times. The first time, I decided to try a chocolate macaron, which ended up as an unmitigated disaster. The top of the macaron was cracked and ugly, and the filling was awful, gritty chocolate icing. I have never cried while cooking, but I’ve never been closer than watching my macarons grow uglier in the oven. My worst fears were realised when I took a bite of the macaron. It was like gnawing on a piece of over-sweet, chocolate-y gum. Awful. I needed a do-over.
I made lemon raspberry macarons the second time. I lovingly simmered my own filling out of jam and lemon juice. I whipped the egg whites to stiff peaks and constantly asked my mom if they looked right. I put a fan on the shells so they would dry out and become shiny. I constantly checked on them in the oven, until they looked just the right amount of puffed. I assembled them late in the night, trying in vain to find two matching shells for each macaron, piping the filling in them meticulously.
They tasted great. They lasted a grand total of two hours before my family devoured them. Victory feels sweeter when you know how far you’ve come. Much to my family’s despair, I refuse to make any more. I don’t want to ruin my streak.