I am cooking my way through the resistance.
After the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I made a salad. It was a fancy salad, with arugula and Belgian endives and roasted tomatoes and lemon-basil dressing. After I had a midnight panic attack about nuclear escalation, I made curry. It was too hot, but I ate it anyway. After a Texas lawmaker proposed yet another abortion ban, I made a michelada. I had to substitute a Coors for a Tecate.
In the revolution, you day drink with the beer you have, not the beer you want.
In the weeks since President Donald Trump took office, this has been my M.O.: Read the news, then rage-cook my way through it. I’ve been pawing through cookbooks, experimenting with flavors, trying to find a grocery store that stocks just the right kind of flour, or fish sauce, or peppers. To be sure, I am also protesting with my body, calling my representatives, and talking to friends and strangers about racism and misogyny and bigotry. But I never really feel in control until I’m back in front of a simmering pot of seafood stock or hacking away at a pile of chicken bones.
After I launched Resistance Kitchen, the quiet little Tumblr blog where I chronicle my self-soothing adventures in gastronomy, I quickly discovered that I’m not the only one. A lot of us are starting to think of comfort food as coping food.
There’s my friend Rachel, who offered the Clam Chowder of Sheer Survival as a reward for making it through another terrible day. And my friend Carrie, who wrote only half-jokingly about offering her body as literal sustenance during the apocalypse, penned a recipe for fromage fort, the spreadable French cheese dish. She wryly observed that fromage fort is like the Statue of Liberty: It takes all comers, from brie to bleu to cheddar.
The things we cook tell us a lot about our hopes, fears, and anxieties. As California writer s.e. smith noted in a beautiful Resistance Kitchen pastry recipe, the Croissants of Long, Slow, Layered Rise to Victory: “Think to yourself that there is nothing too complicated for you, that you thrive on layers and nuance, that you are willing to wait for perfection, rather than settling for what everyone else thinks is acceptable.”
In a practical sense, making food demands that the cook do little else besides. That’s initially why I turned to the kitchen to mitigate my stress. I’m a journalist. It’s my job not to tune out, but I am constantly fighting to find the line between informed and inconsolable.
You can’t check Twitter if your hands are covered in marinade. You can’t obsess over Facebook when the risotto needs stirring. Turn off the TV in the kitchen and replace news radio with a playlist, and escape the news cycle. When it seems as if nothing can cure what’s happening outside, dedicating oneself to a pot of Bolognese can act as a powerful palliative for the existential anxiety that stems from hourly revelations about the destruction of our health care system, the ravaging of our environment, and the presence of white supremacists in the White House.
But food does more than offer momentary distraction from a horrifying historical moment; it offers us a way to feed ourselves and our communities so that we can become and stay strong.
From the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for Children program to modern-day abortion funds that, in part, help people traveling for abortion care find a meal during their journeys, to the Dallas restaurants that rallied to keep airport protesters fed and watered in the days after Donald Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban, feeding each other is a historically necessary component of resisting systems of oppression that starve us of our freedoms.
Food is political–how we cook, what we cook, whether we can cook. It’s no accident that the recipes on Resistance Kitchen are derived from cuisines spanning the globe, every ingredient a reminder that America’s diversity is a gift to be cherished, not a scourge to be eliminated. “This is not normal,” we tell ourselves every time Trump churns out another appalling executive order or hops on late-night Twitter to berate the news media for doing its job. Cooking feels normal; it also feels, in the face of deep non-normalcy, very radical indeed.
It’s about more than food in our stomachs; it’s about food on the table. When we sit down in the dining room–or stand around the grill, dripping mustard on our shirts–we’re very often choosing our people. Gathering to break bread is an integral part of many religious communities, an essential ingredient in fellowship. We take casseroles to new neighbors; we organize food deliveries to new parents. We eat together when people get married; we eat together when people die.
And we eat together when we are trying to wrest our democracy from the hands of a despot.
Andrea Grimes is a journalist for hire, Bloody Mary expert, and Texpat living in the Bay Area.