The functions of your body don’t care about what’s going on in your life, as a rule. Your bladder doesn’t understand that you haven’t peed because you can’t take a break, your lumbar muscles don’t appreciate that you can’t afford a new bed right now, and your stomach doesn’t give a single fuck about your problems. You’ve got to eat. E
ven if the country you live in has fallen to white nationalists just after your father killed himself, for instance. You know, as a totally random scenario.
Takeout is expensive and it’s not fair to expect your partner to cook every single night. If you’re anything like me, then you become lethargic when you process big, complicated emotions. That means that you want a maximum result to effort ratio, so you have plenty of time to sit on the couch and stare at your hands.
So! What you need is something that produces a lot of food for the money, can be used in several different ways to prevent boredom, and won’t occupy all your attention, which to me screams (or gravelly whispers to the void) “slow cooker.” If you don’t have one, consider it, because you can do a hundred things with one and a little one at Target will set you back like ten bucks.
For this recipe, it also means that other than items you’ll use to serve, you’ll only get two dishes dirty; washing dishes isn’t something that helps me cope.
Technically, this recipe takes eight and a half hours, but it’s more like fifteen minutes of work, eight hours to let it run, then fifteen more. That way, even if you aren’t on bereavement and have to work, you can still make something tasty for the house without using more energy than you honestly have.
Before I start the actual recipe, a note on my methods: I don’t measure. I cook by sight, smell, and instinct. This is partly because I’m sort of a lazy cook and don’t like getting more things dirty and partly because even more than other arts, cooking is a transient experience. You’ll never eat the exact same meal twice — so I don’t try.
Since this is for people other than me, I’ll approximate, but please: trust yourself, you know what you like (at least when it comes to food and not yourself).
Boneless Pork Roast, approximately 2 pounds
20 ounce bottle of Coke
1 tablespoon each:
1 cup Ketchup
1 cup Spiced Rum
2 tablespoons Hot Sauce (I like Louisiana Crystal)
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder (uh, separate from the first one)
- Combine the pepper, paprika, salt, and one of the garlics in a bowl and stir with a fork. It should be a dark brick red. Rub this all over the roast, covering it as evenly as you can.
- 2. Before you put the roast in the cooker, pour just enough soda in there to cover the bottom. Add the roast, then pour about half of the bottle over the top. You want the liquid to come half way up the meat, so if you’re using a smaller cooker (or roast), use less soda. I honestly don’t know if adding things to the cooker like this helps, but it feels right. Set the cooker to low.
- Okay, cool, now you have six-to-eight hours to yourself. Just remember; you’re not doing nothing, you’re letting flavor build. Nobody can say you didn’t do anything today. Have some of that Coke and consider how you want to eat the end product. Tacos are an excellent choice, especially since they’ll let your use up any spare veggies in the fridge. I hear cleaning out the fridge helps some people feel productive and alive.
- Now that it’s been at least six hours, it’s time to tear up that pork. Uncover the cooker, but leave the heat set to low. Take a couple of forks and shred the roast by stabbing in with both and pulling them apart, being super careful to not touch the sides of the cooker with your bare hands. I wish I could tell you that you can work out some anger here, but if things have gone well, the meat won’t be fighting back any. Still, it’s a pretty satisfying tactile process. Shred the meat as much as you like, then use the forks to stir in the cooking liquid in the cooker, then leave that alone.
- Over at the stove, pour the rum into a small pot and put it over medium low heat, watching carefully. You’re just looking to evaporate a little of the alcohol, so you don’t want it coming near boiling. Give that about 2-3 minutes, then add the ketchup, hot sauce, cumin, and garlic powder, stirring until evenly mixed. On its own, this would make awful barbecue sauce, too vinegary by far, but you’re going to pour this straight into the cooker and stir through. That’ll thicken up the liquid into a balanced sauce and provide some acid you’ve been missing.
Like I said before, this is just a framework and can be changed very easily. Sub in cayenne for paprika and increase the hot sauce for a much spicier dish. Replace the cumin and garlic in the sauce with some Chinese Five Spice to emphasize the sweetness and rum spices. Even just changing the soda can alter the end result a lot (do stick with darker soda, though, colas or root beers). Rummage around your pantry and think about what sounds good, because slow-cooked pork is pretty forgiving.
So there you go. Things aren’t magically better, but hopefully you’ve spent the last nine hours engaging in some self care, so with some soul food in your system you can plan the next step. Maybe call your state representatives or call your sister, who’s probably not doing any better than you are. Go on Twitter and block some Nazis with anime girl avatars, that always cheers me up.
Author: Evan McDevitt
Evan McDevitt lives in Philadelphia, where he spends most of his time writing tabletop games. In these trying times, he draws most of his strength from his wife and shows for literal children. His attempts to cope are chronicled on Twitter @E_McDevitt.