Monday, May 30, 2011
It doesn’t really feel that way to me, though. Maybe because it feels natural for me to focus on food anyway, whether as a vehicle for celebration in good times or a means of comfort in bad. Or maybe because food really is so central to the business of living, in a very primal way that we don’t think about much consciously: if you don’t eat, you will die. And in the aftermath of death, eating is both necessary and an affirmation that yes, you are still alive.
Sometimes moving on feels like a betrayal. I remember thinking, at a particularly bad moment in my life that, as much pain as I was feeling right then, there was nothing I could do to stop this from becoming something that had happened once upon a time. That the pain, as bad as it was, would lessen eventually, and I would move on from it. I think in some ways that is the hardest part of grief: that you go on and the person you love does not.
That’s what my family-in-law and the people of Joplin are facing now: moving on with everyday life, carrying that burden of loss and grief. In those circumstances, it is often the simple creature comforts of life that bring some consolation and respite. Elaborate or fussy food can seem frivolous, even disrespectful, but a baked potato provides sustenance and comfort without pretension.
Stuffed baked potato
This fortifies the basic baked potato with some protein and turns it into the basis for a small meal, with the addition of some vegetables or fruit. It’s not too taxing to prepare, requires minimal equipment and energy, and fills up the eater relatively inexpensively. Oh, and it’s gluten-free too. It’s a bit more hearty than is typical for the end of May in the northern hemisphere, but between the chilly spring weather we’ve been having and a recurring need for starchy but nutritious comfort food, it’s showed up my menu rotation a few times lately.
1 medium potato
1 tsp/5 g olive oil
1 oz/30 g salami*
1 oz/30 g hard cheese**
1 Tbsp/15 g milk
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425F/200C. Clean potato and poke it with a fork; rub all over with oil. Put in the oven and bake until completely cooked through, at least one hour or possibly more, depending on the size of the potato.
Remove cooked potato from oven (but don’t turn the oven off) and split in half lengthwise. Leave to cool slightly while you prep the fillings: chop the salami into small pieces, and place in a small bowl. Grate or shred the cheese and add most of it to the bowl; leave the rest to one side.
Carefully scoop the flesh out of the potato halves, leaving the skins intact and, if possible, a thin lining of flesh. Mix the scooped-out flesh with the meat and cheese, adding milk to bring the mixture together. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Use a large spoon to re-fill the potato halves. Top the filling with the remaining cheese. Place filled halves on a small baking tray and return to the oven to heat through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Serves 1. Can be multiplied.
* Any cooked meat can be substituted for the salami; I often use leftover sausage.
** For example, pecorino romano, asiago, aged gouda….