A few months ago, I went on Twitter and wrote about an idea that had been bouncing around in my head (and something I’d been wishing I had) for a while: a self-care or mental health-focused cookbook with low-effort, nutritious meals. Better yet if it were in graphic novel form, like Relish by Lucy Knisley, a memoir with recipes about the different roles food has played in the artist’s life.
The tweet was based on my own experiences; when you’re feeling off and you need to look after yourself, sometimes food can be tricky. You end up resorting to pricey food delivery or instant noodles and the microwave. The same goes, really, for anyone who’s busy with school or work, is on their own for the first time, and/or is still learning to navigate their own independence. When you’re able to get up and do it, there’s just something about cooking something real for yourself that can be freeing, like you’ve got it all figured out, even for just an hour. Coping mechanisms can be an escape, but cooking is enlightenment.
Coping mechanisms can be an escape, but cooking is enlightenment.
The next day, I woke up to tens of thousands of notifications about the little thought bubble I’d sent out — from artists volunteering to work with me on it, to other people sharing their own struggles, to cooks, nutritionists, and students in the health sector graciously offering their expertise. Even Lucy Knisley herself had replied. It was an incredible example that the internet can still bring people all over the world together for the common good. (Even if some of them were trying to get BuzzFeed Tasty, Chrissy Teigen, or Antoni from Queer Eye to steal the concept.)
I also received a lot of great suggestions for books that already exist, and I’ve also been able to discover titles on my own. Here are five of them, affirming the therapeutic and comforting qualities of food and cooking, one recipe and uplifting story at a time.