Nearly 10 years ago, when I boiled a whole chicken for the first time, I was awed by how much my apartment smelt like home. But by accident, I ended up making her samgyetang.
Garlic lovers will swoon over this Korean chicken soup, which is packed with the herb. The sound of the cloves being pressed into the pot echoed the dish’s name: Sam. Gye. Tang. I still remember that.
My golden broth’s aroma, on the other hand, carried me away. I burst into tears when I inhaled the scent and felt the past rush through me like electricity. At the same time, I found myself in New York City and Atlanta, where I grew up in a brick house with peaches in the front yard and a childhood bedroom lined with Michelle Branch posters. Suddenly, I was in two places at once.
The French novelist Marcel Proust coined the term “involuntary memory” and what we now refer to as “Proustian memory” to describe the experience I had that day. One of his seven-volume novels “In Search of Lost Time” contains a scene in which the narrator is suddenly overwhelmed by memories of his childhood after he consumes a tea-soaked lemon madeleine.
Just as soon as I tasted the warm liquid with the crumbs, I was struck by the sensation of a shudder and paused to contemplate what was happening to me, Proust writes. “How did this all-powerful joy find its way into my life?”
I try to savour the moment when I’m struck by an unexpected memory.
When I’m in the kitchen, what gets me most excited and what brings me the most joy is when I unintentionally recall something from my past that I’d forgotten about, like the smell of a chicken simmering in water.
I’d like to do more of that in the coming year. In the kitchen and out, at my desk and in life, maybe those small moments of “all-powerful joy” will be more likely to reveal themselves to me if I resolve to look for them. The more Proustian madeleines I eat, the more I’m likely to weep. (After all, crying has numerous health benefits.)
Fortunately, good madeleines dipped in tea can be found all over the place. Chicken soup is a go-to comfort food, especially when you’re feeling under the weather and in need of some extra warmth.
An assistant professor at Brandeis University whose grandmother’s tinola was made with chicken pieces, fresh ginger, and greens, Dr. Amber Spry, recalls making an approximation of it.
When Dr. Spry, 32, was a child, she referred to this dish as “ginger chicken soup,” and she remembered it when she moved to New York City. For the soup, she asked her parents for instructions, went to a corner bodega for supplies, and made a big pot in her studio on Amsterdam Avenue.
This soup, she said, was “almost like an instinct to create this thing that felt familiar,” and now she knows she can get it whenever she craves a sense of “comfort and home.”
Dr. Spry’s legacy lives on nearly a decade later when she conjures a pot of tinola. That recipe comes from her father and grandmother, who both passed it down through their families.
Her new husband, David Labuguen, shuddered when he tasted her father’s version of the soup recently. Since the soup tasted like something his parents make, it brought back memories for him, and that’s the power of simple ingredients like chicken and ginger to unite people who care about one another.
One of the best ways to bring our families along on our travels is by bringing food with us. Is there anything more comforting than a familiar place to call home?
I’ve never forgotten what a blessing it is to earn a living by cooking. On the other hand, there are days when I just can’t stand to be in the kitchen anymore. It’s the cleaning that does the most damage to my sanity. Especially this year, when the world seemed to be falling apart again, it was difficult for me to find joy in anything.
If you have to cook, it can be difficult to find comfort food.
When the chef Kia Damon comes home from a long day at work, she prefers to keep things simple in the kitchen and eat something light. Ms. Damon, 28, who grew up eating a lot of pasta, now makes her own comfort foods, such as carbonara, based on memories of her mother’s cooking.
“I feel like I can still pull out pasta and feel like I really went off when I’m super-drained and when I just don’t have anything churning in my mind,” she said.
It’s important to take a break from your work, whether it’s a hobby or a profession, to recharge your batteries. It’s a blessing for those of us who have to cook for our jobs that there are certain recipes that remind us of how much we love to cook.
Duck confit scented with orange peel, star anise, and juniper berries is Ms. Damon’s preferred method of cooking. If she could only cook one more thing, this is what she would make.
“I would eat that and then wait for the spirit to take me away,” she said of her typical eating routine.
Roasted chicken is my go-to meal if I’m going to die tomorrow. On the weekends, when I have the most free time, I enjoy cooking a small bird for myself. As a result, the process itself is the source of happiness in this case. Satisfying my Sunday dinner can be as simple as salting and sugaring my chicken on Saturday and letting it dry-brine in the fridge overnight.
Cooking a roast chicken only takes a few minutes, but I can eat it for days. It’s not that I don’t enjoy cooking, but that I enjoy eating even more.
First comes dinner, which is usually a juicy chicken breast with crispy skin. My mother and I both prefer the two “oysters” that are tucked behind the thighs of the chicken, which are tender and covered in schmaltz. Each of us gets one.
Afterwards, I like to mutilate the rest of the meat from the bones and use it to make numerous meals. Finally, and possibly my favourite part, I turn the carcass into stock using whatever odds and ends I’ve saved from the pantry, such as bay leaves, black peppercorns, and an onion with the peel on (which my mother taught me lends both colour and flavour to soups and stews).
This is an easy task for the Instant Pot. It will pressure-cook my past, present, and future into a golden stock that I can sip on in the mornings before my cup of java. I wash the Ravenclaw mug after each use so that I can continue to use it for both coffee and stock.
Even though roast chicken is my go-to therapy, chicken soup is my go-to cure, my madeleine dipped in tea.
Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Cabbage and Roasted Chicken Stock are two of the recipes.