Self-care is a stocked freezer

When I’m feeling a very particular combination of helplessness and rage, say, the kind I felt the day Christine Blasey Ford testified, my coping strategy is to cook.

I don’t mean that I pick a new recipe and cook an elaborate meal. I don’t mean that I bake decadent treats to self-soothe by sheetcaking. I mean that I cook like your great-grandmother who lived through the Depression. I cook like a pioneer farmer’s wife. I make huge vats of stock from scraps and bones. I cook beans in that stock and make stew. I fill the freezer with enough dinners to last weeks.

So anyway, after our family got some upsetting news about someone important to us, tonight I took out a vacuum-sealed bag of homemade meatballs from the 5 pound batch I made the day Bill Barr’s half-assed summary of the Mueller Report came out, simmered them on the stove for half an hour in some crushed tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, and fed my family homemade meatball subs for dinner.

Because cooking is how I remind myself that I always have my own back.

Beans and greens and ham

I make this in the Instant Pot, and it’s delicious. If you don’t have an electric pressure cooker, you could easily to do this in a slow cooker, or on the stove. It’s less a recipe than a game plan. You will need: 

An onion
A bell pepper
A carrot
A bunch of kale or chard, leaves separated from stems
A couple cloves of garlic, smashed
A pound of dry beans
A smoked ham hock
A few bay leaves
Some extra ham (the kind you cut off a ham, not deli ham)
6 cups of some combination of water and stock (if you only have water, no worries; it’ll still be great)

Dice your onion, bell pepper, carrot, and kale/chard stems finely. Turn the Instant Pot on “Sauté” and heat up some kind of fat- I use bacon grease here, but you could easily use some kind of oil or even butter. Throw the vegetables and garlic cloves in with some salt and pepper and toss them around until they start to to cook down a bit.

Add your ham hock, your pound of beans, your 6 cups of liquid, your bay leaves, and your extra ham. You could also add some red pepper flakes here, or some hot sauce or vinegar, but I’d avoid adding salt at this point because the ham is going to add a lot of salt and smokiness. Taste for salt levels at the end. 

Seal up the Instant Pot and set it for 40 or so minutes of pressure time. Wander off and do something else. When it goes off, maybe let it sit for another 20 minutes or so; there’s no rush here. 

Open the Instant Pot and taste what you’ve got. Add any seasonings you think it needs. If it’s super watery, ladle some out, but this should feel like a soup or a stew at this point. Add your greens in and stir them around so that the heat wilts them. 

Ladle all this into a bowl, and serve with whatever fixings you like- more hot sauce, maybe some cheddar cheese melted on top.