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ode to grocery stores by Mel N. '24

the loneliest sweet potato

When I’m sad, or there’s some conundrum in my life that I need to process, or I’m riding the high from hanging out with friends, or I’m so stressed that I can barely quiet the buzz of all the bees in my head–I go grocery shopping.

Over IAP, with mostly nothing else to do because I ended up dropping my UROP–a story for another time–I started cooking. A lot. This is a fairly common thing that students do during IAP, because it’s like, “Nice! I have all this free time. I might as well start feeding myself actual food.”

I’d say that during the semesters, I do an okay job at making actual food. It usually ends up being a lot more Chipotle01 because it's like, really close to east campus. temptingly close than I expected, but that’s fine. I’ve got a few quick and relatively nutritious meals up my sleeve. If all else fails and the hosage monster gets me, I work through my supply of rice noodle packs that I got from YamiBuy.02 an app that delivers asian snacks. a very good app even though shipping and delivery takes a while

I watch a lot of ASMR cooking videos on YouTube. They’re actually a pretty big genre on YouTube, mostly consisting of people with aesthetic cookware aesthetically chopping vegetables and arranging them in aesthetic bowls and aesthetic plates, aesthetically, all paired with aesthetic background music. When I watch them, I like to daydream about having my own cozy little kitchen with matching pots and pans and knives and cutting boards. Green tiles, dried herbs, lots of plants growing in sunny corners.

I like this channel in particular, delicious day. It’s a very fitting name, because it sure has made my days delicious. I also think they do a really good job of breaking recipes down into simpler steps to make it seem a little less intimidating, and having the audio-visual element to guide me while I’m cooking works a lot better than trying to do things from a cookbook. Also, the food they make looks so good…

screenshot of delicious day

And because I am very fond of adapting elaborate Notion templates to specific purposes, I found this kitchen-managing system. It basically serves as a dynamic grocery list:

  1. Put in the ingredients that you currently have.
  2. Put in a bunch of recipes and the ingredients that they require.
  3. Put in the days that you’re making specific recipes (not required).
  4. The template tells you what ingredient you need to buy, when to buy them, and also what you can make with the stuff you currently have in your possession. Convenient!!!

So…fancy Notion template + ASMR cooking videos = Mel discovers how to become a kitchen god.

screenshot of kitchen template

snippet of how i use my kitchen template…

Here’s a link to my adapted template as it exists right now, and here’s a collection of some food I made!

When spring semester started, I tried to keep cooking, but as entropy in the form of psets and classes would have it, my mealplanning slowly fell apart. I went back to Chipotle as a default meal when I was too busy or tired for other things.

But even though I’m going to the grocery store less these days, it brings me the same amount of joy. Something about it feels rhythmic and comforting. Taking the T to HMart with my little grocery tote in hand. Walking across the bridge to Trader Joe’s to buy yogurt and soup and baby’s breath. Running to Brothers Marketplace in the evening to stock up on milk and eggs.

trader joe's baby's breath

i love tj flowers

It’s like a reset. It gives me time to play music and ignore the rest of the world for a little bit and, as I peruse the aisles of soup cans and baking supplies and pass by piles of tomatoes and onions, it lets me pretend like I’m someone who has their life together. Someone who knows what they’re looking for and what they’re going to do instead of someone who’s lost and drifting at sea, trying to find a way back to shore.

Fake it till you make it, right?

Earlier this year, I found this poem: The Loneliest Sweet Potato by Sabrina Benaim.

Here’s a video of her performing it.

The sadness comes in waves. I think I’m no longer as sad and lonely as I was when I first read this, but it still rings true.

everybody loves me because i’m good at making people feel good. i’m good at making people feel good because i have had a lot of practice on myself. practice on myself because i feel sad a lot. i feel sad a lot, but when i make people feel good, i feel good for a little bit. i feel good for a little bit, until i get lonely. i get lonely and i am uncomfortable in my lonely.

And maybe it’s true that making people feel good doesn’t solve the problem, but it does make me feel better for a little bit. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, making food is one of my love languages. I bake banana bread for hall so often that it’s muscle memory at this point. When I care about someone, I want to cook for them and make sure they’re eating well.

Most of all, I think I am trying to be more comfortable in my loneliness every time it decides to visit me again.

  1. because it's like, really close to east campus. temptingly close back to text
  2. an app that delivers asian snacks. a very good app even though shipping and delivery takes a while back to text