Do you like to eat alone? I haven’t done a formal study, but I will tell you something interesting that I’ve observed in my years as a psychologist in the dr deb office. People who are well adjusted and happy enjoy eating with other people and also like to eat alone. People who have emotional difficulties fall on the extreme ends of the continuum. They may feel very uncomfortable without a dining companion; those people will never go to a restaurant without a date and even a bowl of soup solo in bed feels like a challenge. On the opposite side of the spectrum, lots of folks with eating disorders or social anxieties dislike being observed taking nourishment. Those folks vastly prefer to dine in solitude.
I have spent most of the last two decades of my life raising a family. Making sure we ate home cooked food together most nights was a priority for me. Consuming meals as a family was an enormous pleasure for all of us. But two nights a week, I worked late, so Bob usually ate with the kids and I had a plate when I got home. Brian used to tease me that I always ate weird combinations of things like beets or chickpeas and rutabagas.
When I was a small child, I began tradition of preparing my solitary eats with the same care and attention as I lavish on meals with others. Like lots of other people, when no one else is watching, I sometimes put together some strange stuff. I seem to remember my favorite “home sick from school” concoction involved spaghetti and ketchup.
Bob has to travel for work a few times a year. When that happens, I try to think of things to make for myself that I love but don’t get to have when we’re together. There are only a few foods he really dislikes: coconut, and brothy soups. He hates anything coconut flavored or textured. I adore coconut. I like coconut sorbet and ice cream, I drink coconut water after my run, I sprinkle coconut flakes on my yogurt. As for broths, Bob only enjoys soups that are thick and hearty and more like stew. I love grandma’s chicken soup with or without noodles, vegetable soups that have a clear base and are chock full of veggies, and minestrone type soups. The sorts of bowls my mother refers to as “belly wash.”
When he is away, it is my chance to feast on the things I like without having to make something separate for him. I try to make a point to practice mindfulness while I cook and eat. Today, I made a big pot of chickeny broth filled with coconut, vegetables and tofu; it is warming, flavorful, and comforting. I’m going to nourish myself this weekend while I load and unload a bisque kiln full of pots, mix glazes, glaze and glaze fire. It will be a ton of work and I am looking forward to being well fed.
Thai Coconut Chicken “Noodle” Soup
This soup is gluten free, high in protein and very low carb. It would be delicious with the addition of soba, rice, or whole wheat noodles. If you are vegetarian or vegan, simply leave out the chicken and substitute vegetable stock. If you are paleo and/or don’t eat tofu, the soup is wonderful without it.
Serves 3 or 4 (or one, for 3 or 4 days)
1 ½ lbs. organic chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1 scallion, sliced
2 tbs. coconut oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs. grated fresh or candied ginger
grated zest of 1 lime (use the naked lime for garnish)
2 tbs. organic can sugar (optional)
1 quart chicken stock (I use organic swanson’s)
8 oz. coconut milk, preferably organic
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 medium zucchini
2 medium carrots
8 oz shiitake mushroom, sliced
1 lb. tofu, drained and cubed
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
garnishes: lime wedges, cilantro, basil, mint, peanuts, sriracha or other asian hot sauce
Cut the zucchini and carrots into “noodles.” You can use a spiralizer or a julienne peeler. If you don’t have either of those, cut the veggies into the thinnest strips possible with a knife. Or, make “ribbons” with a regular peeler. You will have a “core” that becomes difficult to use (you run into the zucchini seeds and the carrot gets too small). You can save them for something else (juicing, compost, stock) or toss them. I diced them up and added them to the soup with the mushrooms.
Melt the coconut oil in a big pot over high heat. When it is shimmering, add the chicken and scallion and let them cook for a minute or so. Then put in the cumin, ginger, and lime zest and sugar (if you are using it) and toss everything around. Brown the chicken for a few minutes on one side and then turn and brown on the other for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss everything around. Cook the mushrooms for a few minutes and then add the coconut milk and the stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through; this should take about 10 minutes. Now, use tongs to take the chicken out and put it on a plate. Let the chicken cool until you can handle it and cut it into big chunks.
Put the spinach into the simmering soup and cook until it wilts. Now add the tofu and the “noodles” and raise the heat until the liquid comes back to a boil. Add the chicken to the pot and cook until it is heated through. Take it off the heat and serve in beautiful handmade bowls with the garnishes.
Serve with love and eat mindfully, alone or with loved ones.