What is it about a pile of noodles nested in a spicy, meaty broth that’s so soothing? It’s been almost a year since Adam and I were newlyweds exploring Southeast Asia, and we still crave that stuff like crazy. Maybe it’s the ritual we miss—sitting at those makeshift, street-corner restaurants on plastic chairs, next to piles of fresh produce and smoking woks. Or maybe the summer heat is making us crave that spicy, steamy goodness (a concept that seems counter-intuitive, but actually makes a lot of sense—warm on the inside, cool on the outside). Either way, we’ve been seeking the comforts of a well-made noodle soup more often these days. This pho from Pho 87 in Chinatown has been working nicely.
Speaking of comfort foods, my roommate just taught me how to make egg-in-a-basket. This dish strikes me as pure Americana—a piece of sliced bread, butter, egg, and maybe one, perfectly square, Kraft single (please forgive me, reader—sometimes nothing else will do). It’s the kind of food you’d hope to find in a roadside diner after driving down a lonely highway for hours. And that runny-egg-mopped-up-with-buttered-bread thing is so deeply comforting, I’ve been making it for too many late night meals.
At the heart of my preoccupation with all this good, soupy, eggy food is a longing for simplicity. Comfort foods, at least the kinds I know, are satisfying in obvious ways. I haven’t met anyone who would question the appeal of runny egg, plus butter, plus salt on bread.
These days, I have an appetite for the simple stuff. Outside of the kitchen and a few other precious spaces, everything feels messy, uncertain. I’ve heard this happens to people in their late twenties, the slow realization that life isn’t driven by a singular purpose. That sudden moment of self-actualization—you know, the one that will leave me breathless, yet full of understanding about the world and my purpose in it—is not coming. There will be no such relief from the nagging discomfort that I don’t quite understand where all this is going (and by “this,” I mean life in general).
It strikes me that the generations before mine never had time to feel the crushing weight of this uncertainty. Or maybe they gave it a passing thought and then went on living their lives. In that spirit of forward momentum, I’ve decided the best thing to do is try and get comfortable right in the murky middle of things, to let go of that idea of singular purpose and embrace a those things that were not a part of my Master Plan, and therefore, “too random” to indulge.
For instance, I joined a writer’s workshop. I’ve always wanted to improve my creative writing process outside the space of own head, to not “work in a vacuum” as they say—but I’ve also been terrified at the idea of reading my work aloud, to a group of strangers, who then have to critique it. The morning I signed up for it, I drank too much coffee and was feeling more aspirational than usual (read: caffeinated). Yesterday was the first meeting. I’m still terrified, but I’m not backing out.
I’m also learning how to code (yes, as in software), a skill that comes less naturally to me than calculus and brings up every insecurity I have about my underdeveloped math/science proficiencies. Despite those barriers, I’ve always wanted to try designing applications— so why not? Last week, I built an app. It can only do one thing—bring up a random recipe at the touch of a button—but I wrote the code that makes it work. And that’s a sentence I thought I would never write.
Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Now I understand what he meant. Being twenty-something means chiseling away at that block. Slowly. But even if my I won’t understand it all for a long time, or ever, I’m still moving forward—and eating well. Maybe that’s enough for now.