From cooking to ordering delivery and watching food-related shows, JJ Yulo shares how food can help your self-care journey in so many delicious ways.
I haven’t been all there these days. My mind has been going on all sorts of angles and tangents, and twists and turns. I suppose I’m speaking about a lot of people out there. The longer these crazy times drag on, the more people I hear of having exactly the same predicament as I have.
While indeed misery often loves good company—and a bottle of shochu, or even a beer—there are ways for us to keep ourselves sane and in check. I’m not going to bombard you with self-help stuff. And I won’t insist that you find your tranquil spot in your home, do chants, and meditate (but by all means go do it if that helps!).
Instead, I’ll share with you some stuff that has helped me cope—food-related, of course. There are a LOT of rabbit holes to go down for that. So, follow your instincts and jump right in.
From Reel to Real: Food in Documentaries
I haven’t watched so much YouTube in my whole life. Ever. But it really has been a source of comfort for me. I’ve piggybacked on everything—from travel shows to food vlogs, and old documentaries about stuff that I thought I’d never binge on. These include clips of Family Feud (I’m now a Steve Harvey fan!) and vids about computer keyboards. Sheesh!
But one channel I’ve been visiting a lot is GoTraveler. It’s a relatively quiet channel with lots of documentaries, including old episodes of Anthony Bourdain. I haven’t watched any Bourdain in years, and now that I’ve revisited them, I’ve learned there really is some truth in being soothed by old shows—maybe because it hearkens back to a time where there was a semblance of stability, and we had a bit more control over things.
Seeing a drunken AB stumble around San Francisco after what must’ve been a ton of drinks and sinking his teeth into a late-night cheeseburger just seems so satisfying. The good ol’ days, indeed.
You are What You Eat (and Read)
One thing I noticed about myself is that I needed to do things to keep my focus in check. I had—and still have—soup for brains. So I went down several rabbit holes—the best one being easing myself back into reading.
I’ve always been an enthusiastic reader, but lately, there’s been an ebb and flow to that habit. When I started reading again during the pandemic, I noticed I could hardly do a few pages without my mind wandering off, or me flicking through my phone. Horrible. Current me would’ve taken forever to read the volumes of fantasy novels that I read before.
But once I got my groove, these books rescued me and gave me sanctuary the way books do—whisking me to another place, where I could live out some “normalcy” through the words. While I have tried to vary my selection of reads—because I can’t keep reading about just food (or can I?)—inevitably, the food books keep roping me in again. I have to embrace that that is the real me… and it’s fine, I suppose. Better to devour books than donuts.
I am currently reading this fun book that juxtaposes robotics, San Francisco, and sourdough baking called Sourdough, or Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market. It makes me want to bake a boule. Or not.
Of Deliveries and Delicious Eats
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in a cave deep in the jungle, you can’t avoid the juggernaut that is delivered food. In this pandemic, that is our lifeline to food—as much as it is a lifeline for restaurants and entrepreneurs to keep their heads above water.
(It goes without saying—if you care about a certain establishment or business, order from them. If you can’t order, be a cog in their marketing machine: tell people about them, and spread word about their deliciousness. They need you!)
I have had the good fortune to try some amazing ones this past year and a half, and it certainly has given me much-needed smiles. I’ll give you a big list in another article, but I’ll start you off with few things for you to try here that truly helped calmed me down—food that is delicious, healthful, nourishing, and happiness-inducing.
Current Foodie Faves
Want something different? Try the amazing falafel sandwiches made by Gang Green Falafels, or silken egg with pork from JenCooksPH, Have it with some rice, and it’s like a hug! On the other hand, delicious Japanese dishes include curry dishes from KumaKumaCurryPH (these are hands down the best Japanese curries I’ve tried in Manila), along with the sushi and sashimi offerings of Polaris Fine Foods (not cheap, but you get what you pay for—aka amazing seafood!).
Additionally, the tapa from Oscar’s Dried Beef Tapa is a must-have! I also highly recommend their pusit tapa, which tastes amazing with Korean porridge. And if you’re looking for comforting meals to share with family, the huge congee set from Wok With Mom (you’ll need to share this, plus, the sheer variety is awesome), the family platter of KettlePH (I don’t know, it’s just comforting—especially the fried chicken!), and the seaweed soup from The Thai Plate (now one of my favorite soups ever) are perfect.
More of my favorites include the weekly sets from the prolific crew of Bistro Manuel (some of the best value around, and always good!) and the super intense seafood stew called caciucco from PasticciPH (make sure to have crusty bread on hand). For healthy dishes and more, the humble ginataang bilo bilo from The Sexy Chefwill do you good. And finally, you must try the Hainanese Chicken from Sambar. Their sauces are amazing!
I could go on, but these will be sufficient until my next list.
Netflix and Mukbang
Netflix is the MVP for a lot of reasons. It is one of the most convenient escapes—available almost instantly with a few keystrokes on your keyboard or a flick of the remote. And the choices, of course, are endless.
There is a myriad of choices for food-centric viewing, but let me share one that really sent me down the rabbit hole of K-Drama. Yep—two birds with one kimchi. It’s calledLet’s Eatand it’s on Netflix.
Don’t get too caught up in the story, because it’s a tad flimsy. But the scenes where they eat Korean food (and there are often two big scenes in one episode) will really increase your knowledge of Korean cuisine. It may even nudge you into making a bowl of ramyeon. Of that, I am sure of. Saranghae!
Cooking at Home
Since a lot of us are stuck at home with no place to go—we’ve all had to cook more. For a lot of people around me, it’s a time when they’ve cooked more than they ever have in their whole lives. But for natural cooks, that’s a piece of cake—fun, even.
But there are those who are terrified of the mere thought of it. Let me assuage your fears—cooking is actually fun. In fact, anyone can do it. It’s just like riding a bike (except I can’t, but that’s another story). But the tricky part—or actually, the fun part, in my case—is to find simple recipes to make. This is for days when you don’t want to go too deep into making anything.
Quite often, there are things in your pantry to help you make your cooking fantasies come true. I’ll share with you a recipe to get you rolling.
Spaghetti Napoletana Recipe
Spaghetti Napoletana is something we can all get behind. It’s a Japanese homestyle pasta with a sauce based around ketchup. Here’s how to do it:
Start cooking your pasta in salted water—around 250g is a lot for two people.
Thinly slice a hotdog and 3 bacon strips. Cut an onion into half moons, mince two cloves garlic, and julienne half a yellow pepper and a red pepper.
In a non-stick pan, add some olive oil. Saute the sausage and bacon, then add the onions, garlic, and peppers and cook until the onions and peppers are soft.
Add around 4 to 5 Tbsp of tomato ketchup, 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce, and a few tablespoons of pasta water.
Put the cooked pasta in, 2 Tbsp of milk (or cream!), and tossm then top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Have some tabasco on the side. And that’s it!
I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I did, but it was good! And the best part—it’s easy to make. Feel free to embellish in whatever way you wish—toss in some mushrooms, omit the meat, put in tuna… it’s your call. The bottom line is to just do it because it will make you happy. Self-care can also mean indulging in carbs when you think the world is getting to you. Bon appetit!
JJ loves and appreciates good things - delicious food, interesting stories, compelling words, entrancing images, beautiful places, groove filled music - and wants to share it with anyone who cares to listen. He is a friendly face whorls happens to be a food enthusiast. If you want to know what to eat and where you should go, JJ is your guy.
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