Most people I know have some kind of food that they turn to when they want comfort. It’s something familiar and safe, and it represents a goodness we all crave. We look for the goodness in our lives and we eat whatever that thing is to sustain ourselves. For some people it’s the classic hot tea and chocolate, or a grilled cheese sandwich, or maybe some horrifying combination of burgers and fries at your favorite guilty drive-through.
For me it’s cioppino. It’s a rich tomato-y stew originating in San Francisco that is filled with all manner of seafood: clams, mussels, oysters, cod, and prawns. It is somehow hearty yet delicate, intensely flavorful yet calming. I have eaten cioppino in a little seafood diner at Pike Place while laughing with my family. I’ve made it for Christmas dinner while my mom took videos on her fancy new phone, I of course am ruminating over the correct cooking times for the various shellfish. I’ve fallen in love, starry-eyed in a new relationship, over a bowl of the stuff, in a warm living room (in front of a fire no less… so sue me).
It is delicious and robust. It has heart. It has the inexplicable ability to make my chaotic life feel safe for a few moments. Don’t ask me how it does it because I don’t understand it myself. It’s been said for ages that the sea has healing properties, and a part of me likes the idea that perhaps eating a bowl of the creatures that reside there allows me to somehow harness their powers for myself. Pardon me for getting all universey-magic on you, but cioppino has a spiritual quality, like eating the heart of a bull.
This is all to say that lately I’ve needed that… to feel warm and safe and happy and taken care of. Thank god my friend Jesse somehow knew that and whisked me down to Edison in the middle of the afternoon to find some cioppino. We went to the Longhorn after hearing they served it, though we found it’s not quite cioppino… it was essentially the same but with spinach and parmesan and ground Italian sausage as well.
Whatever, it totally did the trick. So there in the window in a bar in the middle of all those fields and all that salty sea air, between sloppy mouthfuls of oysters and garlic bread, I got right.