Hear Me Out is a weekly limited series where Ifoghale and Ibukun share the unsolicited opinions some people are thinking, others are living but everyone should hear.
If you ever manage to glimpse my YouTube watch history, I promise I’m not obsessed with Gordon Ramsey. Instead, zoom into those video thumbnails and see the image of my one, true love — spaghetti.
We’ve been skin-tight since 2021, Spaghetti and I. I’ll have to thank my depression for introducing us. The bigger picture here is that you can eat your way to happiness. Hear me out.
Grab the closest skillet you can find. Fill it up with water and bring to a boil. Now, I wasn’t born depressed. At least, I remember being five and wanting to dance all the time. I loved Michael Jackson and practised his moonwalk non-stop. My parents fed me every day. I went to school, came home and did homework. As a teenager, I annoyed my siblings and hung out with my friends, you know, normal kid stuff. So it’s hard to say when I began to fall apart.
What I know for sure is that I lost someone I loved very dearly in July of 2021, and it stung like a bitch. Though, yes, most of 2021 was a shitshow, the grief from that one singular loss pressed down upon me like the heaviest blanket.
Is the water boiling? Toss in a generous amount of salt. Go wild with the salt, you want that water salty. Open your pack of spaghetti, throw in your version of one person’s serving into the skillet and cover.
My depression diagnosis came because I’d unintentionally hurt my friend when I disappeared from her life. I felt bad that I was making her feel bad, and so with her seated on my bed, I booked an appointment with a doctor. One online evaluation later, I was staring at two options: psychotherapy (too expensive) or medication (pills, ugh!)
Now’s the time to cook the Guanciale (cured pork cheek). Don’t worry if you can’t find that; bacon works fine. What you want to do is cut the meat into one-inch cubes and toss it into a pan or skillet under medium heat. Don’t forget to throw in a bit of butter.
Coconut head that I am, I told myself, “I’m only a little sad, I’ll make some spaghetti and be happy again.” Your comfort food tends to be personal. Maybe it reminds you of something from your childhood or just the act of eating itself grounds you. People stress eat, but that’s not what this is about. I’m talking about the bowl of [insert favourite food] that seizes your attention (and taste buds) for a few minutes.
Spaghetti was my food of choice because it allowed me to be lazy. Inside the pockets of depression where I lived, I was always tired. Always sad and always numb. Check on your spaghetti right about now. You want to cook it until it’s al denté — not cooked all the way through.
Once your spaghetti is almost cooked through, turn off the heat and dump it into the pan with your cooking meat. Remember that everything is happening quickly. Grab about half a cup of your pasta water and pour it into the spaghetti + meat mixture. Turn your heat all the way up and toss vigorously. Put your elbow into it, your ancestors are watching!
Discovering Spaghetti Carbonara was an accident. My depression led me through a period when I lived on spaghetti and ketchup for weeks. That ugly splash of ketchup across the spaghetti strands looked like depression in a bowl. After I ran out of ketchup, I made a list of the items left in my fridge and threw them at Google for something, anything, to eat.
Enter Gordon Ramsey and his Spaghetti Carbonara recipe. Filmed on a mobile phone by his daughter, the video was fast-paced and had a lot of jokes. The best part? How every second of the video left no space for thinking — just cutting, tossing and good vibes. It was perfect, delicious and easy enough that I nailed the recipe on my first try.
In my saddest moments, I start with a skillet of boiling water and run along the steps it takes until there’s a creamy dish in my bowl. I love the way my brain stops circling the dead thing it carries and shifts its attention towards making the best damn bowl of spaghetti. Comfort food won’t kill our sadness and it won’t reverse our grief, but it will give us the space to consider anything else but the grief.
With your tossed spaghetti in the pan, meat soaked and pasta water combined, turn off the heat completely. Very quickly crack two eggs and separate the yolks into a bowl. It’s traditional (I mean Italian, which is where the dish is from) to grate some Parmesan Reggiano into the egg yolks, but you have my permission to skip this.
Lightly salt the eggs and beat until homogenous. Pour the egg yolks into your spaghetti and toss very quickly, allowing just the heat from the spaghetti to slightly cook the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to scramble, and this is why we turned off the heat.
Serve in a bowl, dust it off with some black pepper, and there you go — happiness.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
I’ll usually open a bottle of beer with mine, but please, you do you!
For however long we spend cooking and eating (just eating is also fine), we can learn to live beside our grief, instead of being crushed by it. My friend is even more stubborn than I am and does not believe in my spaghetti therapy. If I do end up on antidepressants, someone please tell me I won’t be too numb to still make spaghetti?
Hear Me Out is a brand new limited series from Zikoko, and you can check back every Saturday by 9 a.m. for new episodes from Ifoghale and Ibukun.