Cold soba, and cooking when you don't want to.
Adapted from: Japanese somen noodles, the hot-weather saviour.
Since the IPCC report came out, even though it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, I have been in a funk. Or maybe it exacerbated an already existing funk? It’s hard to say these days! I have been looking forward to doing more than surviving, but it feels like that’s all there is room for at the moment, even though the social pressure to go out and enjoy this newfound “freedom” and return to “normalcy” post-lockdown would indicate otherwise. The suffocating heatwave in Toronto, evidence of the crisis at hand and cause of a week-long headache, certainly did not help.
I lose all will to cook when it’s hot, or when I’m depressed—two negative instincts that, when multiplied, never seem to make a positive. But they are predictable and can be prepared for. This year, instead of defaulting to the copious amounts of fruit or corn chips that I am known to eat when I do not have other obligations, I decided to try a little harder for my own sake.
Maybe it’s all that recent thinking about pleasure. Or maybe it’s that in the face of the earth’s rapid decline, taking care of the one body and life that I was given feels like the responsible and meaningful thing to do, even though the instinct is to say fuck it and give in to every vice at once. It feels like drowning in helplessness and finding a tiny buoy. I may not have control over how billionaires make and spend their money, or how the rest of this country votes, but I do have the agency to treat myself with a modicum of kindness.
Cold noodles for dinner feels like doing something for yourself without doing much at all. The most you have to do is boil some noodles then quickly cool them. The tsuyu (a soup base/sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, sake, and dashi) you can easily find in an Asian grocery store, if you don’t want to make it for yourself. The toppings can be minimal: nori, mushrooms, cucumbers, an egg if you’re feeling ambitious. The best part of the experience is the texture of the noodles—cold, firm, and slippery, ideal for sweltering weather.
In certain areas of Japan, this experience is taken to the next level with nagashi-somen, or “flowing noodles,” a seasonal restaurant experience in which fresh somen noodles are floated down a long circuit of bamboo trunks in a stream of icy water, and diners are urged to snatch the noodles as they float by. According to Atlas Obscura, the longest somen chute in the world is 3,317 meters long.
Or, you can throw a few ice cubes on top of your noodles to keep them cold, and call it a day.
Japanese Cold Somen Noodles, via Just One Cookbook.
I used store-bought tsuyu and added scallions and ginger to it, but Just One Cookbook links out to a homemade recipe as well. Instead of somen, I used green tea soba, which added to the cooling factor. I served it with a side of plain blanched green beans. A perfect meal.
What do you cook when it is too hot to do anything? Send me your tips.
Until next time,