[travelogue] chasing meals.

i think about food pretty much all the time.

while i’m eating a meal, i think about what i want to eat for my next meal. as i’m trying to fall asleep, i think about what i want to eat tomorrow, what i want to cook, what i’m craving and why i’m so fucking hungry and how i can’t fall asleep because of it. i follow a fair number of food people on instagram, so i spend a fair amount of time every day looking at food and being cranky that i can’t eat any of it. i read about food constantly, whether on food blogs or in food magazines or as food memoirs or cookbooks — so, basically, i’ve got food on my mind pretty much all the time.

(maybe the one oddity is that i don’t watch tv about food, but that’s also one of the few things consistent about me: i don’t watch much tv in general.)

i know there are people for whom food is a nuisance, something that must be consumed merely for sustenance and nothing else, but i am (clearly) not one of those. food, for me, especially these days, has come to be a sort of hope, this one thing that i can anticipate and look forward to and enjoy on a regular, daily basis, even while everything seems to be going to shit around me. these days, i feel like i’m existing on a precipice, trying so hard not to lose myself entirely to darkness, to nothingness and hopelessness, and i swear this is a battle i’m constantly losing.

and, so, i eat. i cook. i think about food.


this past weekend, i moved out of my apartment in new york city, and, with the help of my family, i packed and loaded as much of my stuff as possible into a mini-van and discarded the rest. i’m currently in the process of driving across the country, back to california, and am currently typing this in a hotel room in charleston, even though i should be sleeping to continue on the next leg to atlanta tomorrow.

i can’t sleep, though, so here we are.

the first leg of my trip took me from nyc to dc, where i went straight to momofuku ccdc because, as it goes, i set my navigation to guide me to restaurants.

last night, i laughed this off as a continuation of my ongoing inexplicable fascination with all things momofuku. today, though, when i think about it, i think it must have been the obvious thing that i would run immediately to something familiar. i mean, to an extent, i know momofuku. i know what the food will taste like. i know what the restaurant will look like. i know the logo, the ssam sauce, milk bar.

it reminds me of home, and, when i was in dc, when i was sitting at the bar in ccdc, slurping noodles and drinking a vodka cocktail, i could forget that i’d just lost my home and that i can’t go back, not yet, not for some time.

when i first had momofuku a few years ago, i didn’t think that much of it. i remember loving the noodles but finding the broth too salty, too spare, and i kind of simply checked it off my list of places to eat and moved on.

recently, though …

momofuku makes my favorite ramen noodles (i believe they’re made in-house), and i can’t get over them. they’re the perfect texture and thickness, just slippery enough and easy to slurp (because noodles must be slurped), and i like that they’re not generic or given less care than the broth or pork. i think noodles are kind of like rice — they’re often seen and dismissed as a basic part of a dish, but, if you have bad rice, bad noodles, the entire thing is wasted.

(FIG [below] gets at this, too. i asked the waiter what he thought of their pork dish, which comes over rice, and he said that they consider the rice just as important as the pork. that kind of care and attention comes through on the plate.)

the more i eat momofuku ramen, the more i like how balanced it is; it’s a bowl that just comes together very well; and ithits all the right notes of comfort and satisfaction and quality. it definitely served as comfort last night, and it’s a bowl i will miss intensely when i’m away from nyc. they did just open a restaurant in vegas, though …


my navigation today brought me to FIG, where i spent way more on dinner than i should have. my budgeting philosophy is simple, though:  eat one great meal a day, and eat crap/starve for the rest, because i’d rather have one great meal than three mediocre/crappy ones.

because here’s the thing: there are a lot of really shitty things about suicidal depression, but, for me, one of the worst things that happens is that it takes away focus, and, when it takes away focus, it takes away books. depression often makes it really difficult for me to read, to sit down and focus on a book, to derive joy from that. i don’t know why that is, but it is.

food, then, fills in for everything.

part of it is likely to do with the fact that i have to eat, whether i want to or not, whether i have an appetite or not. i get hungry, and i feel worse because i’m hungry, so i have no choice but to rouse myself out of my mentally catatonic state and do something about my body’s basic needs. this isn’t to say that depression hasn’t taken food away from me at times, too — there were weeks last year when i got by on rice and hot dogs and fried eggs and ketchup because i didn’t have an appetite and that’s all i could get myself to cook and eat.

after a while, though, my mouth starts to revolt, and it starts craving things. it starts wanting noodles and kimchi and pork. it starts wanting to chew something with more heft, to taste something with more depth and flavor, to eat something that’s actually food and not questionably-processed foodstuffs. it wants green things, bright things, interesting things. it wants to feel alive.

and, so, i let food get me through the day. i think about food a lot. i think about what i want to eat, what i want to cook, and what i need to do to make this meal happen.

i let food give me purpose, and, in that way, i let food create a sort of hope for me.

and, so, i picked my cities by food.

at the moment, i’m still kind of numb to everything, including my depression, including my grief. the road has that kind of effect, but i’m starting to feel that numbness fade away, too, and, as i get further and further away from home and everything that i love, it’s all going to come fully crashing down on me. i’m going to have to figure out how to process my grief, how to grieve, how to start piecing myself back together. i’m going to have to work on learning to manage my depression in more sustainable ways. i’m going to have to muster up the energy to fight for my life and get back home and not die in california.

until then, though, for this week at least, to hold myself together for this 3,300-mile drive, i’ll go on chasing meals.