August 13, 2013 by kholzhauer
I’m cooking, and the kitchen is filled with smells. I’m feeling a little bit out of balance, out of the loop, thrown into chaos, so I’m not cooking a complicated meal. I’ve been leaning heavily on foolproof comforting foods the last few days. Bourbon-Cider ribs last night. A burger with avocado (no bun. Healthy(ish).) Beef Teriyaki. All dishes I can make in my sleep, without thinking, while drinking, dancing to music and drowning out stress.
Tonight I’m fresh from the pool, and I smell like chlorine. But my kitchen smells like, and sounds like roast chicken. It’s the meal that I’ve been falling back on since college (the first attempt.) It’s a meal that I can’t mess up. Roast chicken, fragrant basmati rice, and salad.
I remember sitting in a dorm kitchen in Richmond, IN. I was in the thick of a yet-to-be-diagnosed bipolar swing, and I was cooking chicken. I roasted chicken after chicken and invited anybody, everybody to eat. I hoped the smells would bring people to me, because I was too much of a mess to go out to them. It didn’t always work as planned. I offended the vegans while I carved a “poor, helpless animal” on the table in the communal kitchen. I set off a hyper sensitive smoke alarm with a particularly fatty bird. Sometimes, it brought people together. Sometimes I picked the carcass alone. I gained 40 pounds that year. 40 pounds of chicken, of almond cake, of my misguided attempts to self medicate.
That was 9 years ago. I’ve been diagnosed, and I understand myself a lot better. I still ride out highs and lows that are unspeakably hard to navigate. And I still cook and eat, though I’ve lost the weight I gained and then some. I cooked myself fat. I’m cooking myself healthy.
Even so, I always come back to roast chicken. Simple. Dry, salted skin. 450 degree oven, breast side up until done. It always turns out moist with a crackly skin. Sometimes I’ll drizzle it with lemon, sometimes pomegranate molasses. Sometimes I reduce the drippings to gravy.
In the midst of whatever crazy life throws at me, my own crazy or external, I always come back to something foolproof.