Comfort Food

Miso Soup for a Fragile Year

March  8, 2016

I stopped cooking last year because my appetite was drowned out by my heartbreak. It was impossible to enjoy food the way I used to when if felt like my whole life was falling apart. Weirdly, I didn't give up other food-related habits, like my weekly trips to the Greenmarket, or reading cookbooks.

That I kept up my dedication to the Greenmarket makes sense to me: It's one of the happiest places I know. I always feel a little restored and like the world is full of magic after a visit—of course I'd go there when I'm feeling sad. I find the cookbook habit, however, mostly odd. I spent time reading about something I wasn't doing at all, looking in like a total outsider. I wasn't inspired to cook, but reading recipes was doing something for me, I guess—feeding me, somehow.

So I subsisted mostly on market produce and store-bought hummus while reading recipes I had no intention of making. All of which I hate admitting and regret doing: The produce deserved better treatment than that, the cookbook authors more respect.

Shop the Story

The cookbook that got me to turn on the stove for something besides eggs was Nigel Slater's Eat.

In the fall, The Guardian published an excerpt from his newest book, A Year of Good Eating: the Kitchen Diaries III, that struck every cord in me. I keep it saved in a browser window on my phone and refer to it, even still, when I need a reminder of why I should be cooking more. I love what he says about enjoying the act of cooking, that quiet part of everyday life.

What has always mattered to me is that we enjoy not just the end result, but the hands-on craft along the way, the act of making ourselves and others a meal. Cooking has, for this cook at least, never been purely about the end result. It is the small, joyous details of cooking that have made it a lifelong pleasure.

His recipes are often exactly the kind of food I like to cook: unfussy and delicious. I'm especially fond of how flexible they are, and the permission he gives the cook to make changes. When I read the line "I bring you suggestions, not rules," I decided I needed to get myself another one of his books. I wanted more of his suggestions in my collection.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Also, as an aside, growing up with a Japanese mother, miso soup for me is the ultimate reassuring thing, like a good cup of tea or a deep slow breath when you really need one. Perfect for moments like these.”
— Emiko

The next day. I went to a favorite bookstore, picked up Eat, and flipped to a page that had a recipe for "A simple miso broth for a fragile moment." I didn't bother reading the recipe because my head was spinning: My whole year has been a fragile moment, I thought. This recipe is for me; other recipes in here must be for me, too. I immediately took the book home.

Admittedly, miso soup isn't much of an accomplishment, but it was a much-needed gateway to something more substantial. A few pages after the broth for a fragile moment appears, there's a recipe for Miso Soup with Beef and Kale: a dish that's light enough for when your emotions are still getting the best of your appetite but perfectly warming and hearty for a cold night.

I've made this recipe more than a few times and love how easy it is to put together. You can read the instructions once, then get to making it without referring back to the book. And can add any other ingredients you'd like. The Greenmarket isn't full of options right now, but there are carrots and mushrooms, which I think are perfect additions.

It feels so good to give ingredients and the cookbook author the treatment they deserve.

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • EmilyC
  • Diane Adams
    Diane Adams
  • Catherine Lamb
    Catherine Lamb
  • mcs3000
  • luvcookbooks
I'm a freelance food and prop stylist, writer/editor, and video producer.


EmilyC March 12, 2016
Beautiful, sincere writing. I'm pretty sure I would never have given this recipe a second thought in Slater's cookbook. But now I'm interested in trying it. Thank you for that!
Diane A. March 10, 2016
Serendipity that I came across this heartwarming post right after I was perusing Slater's Eat. Now I am doubly inspire to make the miso and perhaps that genius lentil bolognase.
Kristy M. March 12, 2016
Happy cooking, Diane!
Catherine L. March 10, 2016
Love your writing, Kristy!
Kristy M. March 12, 2016
Thank you, Catherine!
mcs3000 March 10, 2016
Beautiful post. I'll check out this book. Trust your recos!
Kristy M. March 12, 2016
I hope you'll like it as much I do!
luvcookbooks March 9, 2016
Cooking and eating during heartbreak and loss are under written about. I really appreciate your candor and excellent writing. Glad you have the miso soup in your life!!
Kristy M. March 9, 2016
Thank you, Meg!
Emiko March 9, 2016
This is so beautiful, thank you for reminding me why I love Nigel Slater and why I'll be running out first thing to get a copy of this book! Also, as an aside, growing up with a Japanese mother, miso soup for me is the ultimate reassuring thing, like a good cup of tea or a deep slow breath when you really need one. Perfect for moments like these.
Kristy M. March 9, 2016
Thank you for the kind words, Emiko! I hope you like the cookbook as much as I do. The miso broth alone has been a key comfort this year, I get what you mean. Also: tea. A good cup goes such a long way.
LeBec F. March 9, 2016
kristy, i can't say anything useful about heartbreak, but I can tell you that I related completely to what you wrote, and my admiration for you- grew because you were willing to share such feelings with this 52 community. So many of us will be, in our minds, toasting you for happier times.
Kristy M. March 9, 2016
Thank you, LE BEC FIN. Kind words like this make sharing less scaring, and hearing that people relate, makes it very worthwhile.