In praise of selfish, solo food when you have a nasty cold
I know I’m not the first person to to write about eating fried rice for breakfast—not even on this site. That’s pretty much been the function of fried rice as long as humankind has been frying rice: Use the rice from a previous meal to make a new dish, then enjoy that new dish the next day for breakfast. Toss it all in a ripping-hot pan, scramble in an egg, maybe squirt on some hot sauce, and the whole thing clambers back to life like a breakfast Lazarus. It’s quick, fierce, and if I ate rice for every dinner (like much of the world does), I’d be stuffing my face full of it on the daily.
But I never take my time. It’s a quick fix—albeit a delicious one—to get my body fed, and to keep from wasting food. I’m not thoughtful or meditative, just goal-oriented. Except for last weekend when I was moving in slow motion from a Nighttime Formula TheraFlu slumber. I’d gotten a whopping seven hours of sleep (per my last year of Fitbit stats, my average is 5:17 per night), and was feeling extra-luxurious, and hella dopey. I threw the leftover homemade fried rice into a skillet, turned the flame just up to a whisper, and poured in some stock with the notion of making a half-assed, jook- or congee-ish bowl of comforting sludge.
Then desire struck. I was also craving eggs, and I’m something of a compulsive slow-scrambler (it’s my weird, food-based form of self care), so I beat an egg to a froth, started drizzling it atop the rice in a lazy spiral, and began to stir. I dragged the wooden spoon in somnambulant figure-eights for what seemed like half an hour (it was probably 10 minutes) until the whole mess melted together into a glorious, yolk-soaked, vegetable-studded porridge.
There was ginger in the mix, and plenty of garlic, too. At some point, I’d apparently reached into the fridge and thrown in a handful of funky kimchi and fiery jangjorim, both made by my friend Jen’s mom, and hauled on a plane back home from Seoul. (Insert some silly pun about soul food here, ‘cause that’s precisely what this warm mush did for me.) The combination of the broth-plumped grains, silken egg slurry, and sinus-loosening spices turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Less soupy than jook or congee (perhaps more akin to rice porridge) and gloppier than kimchi fried rice, this dish falls into the category of solo food for me. As glorious as it tasted, I’d never think to dish it out to guests, or even my husband, whose tastes vary significantly from mine, even though he is my favorite person with whom to eat. This is ugly, humble, clean-out-the-fridge and fill-up-my-stomach food made with my selfish pleasure, gut desires, and current lack of fine motor coordination in mind. I’m not ashamed of these weird little meals; I just don’t want to have to consider anyone else’s wants while I’m under the weather.
I ate it all. Every bite. The whole bowl and what was left in the pan. I was tempted to leave a bite or two to make sure there was something to bring back to life the next day, but I went right ahead. I just needed it all to be done. Not a single scrap of this day left over.