It is pretty amazing how sometimes when I am walking around the streets of Tangier, I’ll pass by a freshly washed store-stoop and the smell of that particular cleaning detergent all of a sudden sweeps me back to the basement of a friend’s home in Minneapolis where we used to play with American Girl dolls all afternoon. The smallest scents, sights and sounds have the ability to send me time-traveling and hit with a wave of homesickness. These little fleeting moments of nostalgia happen quite often, but the big, heavy kind of homesickness- that only hits on the rare occasion. When it does, it can send me spiraling into “what am I doing here” territory and it becomes hard to drag myself out of it for several days. I would be surprised if someone living far from their original home had never experienced the occasional homesick plunge.
When something like being homesick comes around so rarely, it can be difficult to remember how to battle it each time. It can pull me into a black hole of wanting only to be somewhere I am not and becoming blinded to the beautiful things about the place I am living now, which is practically a crime being right on the Mediterranean. So, in these occasions it is important to have a sort of toolbox on hand- in this case a list of reminders and remedies- to whip out and work through the homesickness head-on. Without further ado, here's a list of what helps me and what may just help you if you find yourself spiraling down into a similar kind of black hole.
Ruby's Homesickness Remedies
1. Call your family.
3. Play music that reminds you of where you came from, although this can go both ways. It can heal an aching heart or it can make it 10 times worse, so it depends on if you are in the mood to drown in melancholy today or if you need to buck yourself up and get on with things. Choose carefully.
4. Read. Escape into another world altogether. I have found that reading makes me feel at home within myself anywhere in the world. I am in my own original skin with a book in hand.
5. Go to a place in your current city where people speak your native language or you can get something that reminds you of home. A new little hole-in-the-wall restaurant recently popped up in Tangier called Pure Food. It serves all fresh and organic ingredients, green juices and breakfast bowls and the owners are a super sweet anglophone couple who just moved here from Amsterdam. Basically, if I want to be somewhere I can eat what I love, speak my native tongue and feel 100% comfortable, this is the place.
6. On the other hand, you could also go to a place that reminds you of why you love where you live now. In these cases, I go grocery shopping in Souk Barra and have a friendly chat with the guy I’ve been buying vegetables from for 4 years. It reminds me how much I love the personal and warm exchanges in the markets and shops here- no coldness and cash machines. It also reminds me how comfortable I have become with Darija and that speaking it helps me feel like I belong.
7. Go outside. Go on a walk. Do not just sit and wallow on your couch, no matter how self-satisfying it might feel in the moment.
8. Stock up your kitchen with things you love to cook with and eat. Hearty nourishment is necessary when facing that sense of being a bit lost in the world.
9. Say yes to plans with friends, maybe even seek out new people to connect with. Remember that you are supported, loved and have a community wherever you are, and the quality absolutely outweighs the quantity of people in your life.
10. Bake something. Cakes, cookies, brownies, bake anything that makes your home smell of butter, sugar and happy nostalgia.
More often than being hit with homesickness, I am hit with the deep and ravenous desire for a crunchy around the edges, soft on the inside, rich + buttery American chocolate chip cookie. There is nothing quite like it and when I have that craving, nothing else will do.
It came over me last week, so I decided to go all out and make these ridiculously delicious beauties. Tenderly browned butter, cashews that have been roasted, salted and turned even more nutty and fragrant, generous chunks of dark chocolate, and a splash of strong coffee for intrigue. These are the absolute perfect cure-all, craving-satisfying, homesickness-helping chocolate chunk cookies that we all need from time to time.
Brown Butter + Roasted Cashew Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 18 medium-small cookies (pictured here) or 12 medium-large cookies
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and then begin by browning the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Melt it completely and as it starts to bubble, whisk constantly until small golden-brown bits begin to form at the bottom (it takes about 5-10 minutes for this to start). Whisk for about 30 seconds more after the brown specks appear, then immediately remove from heat and let cool. (There's a good video tutorial on doing this on Food52).
While the butter is cooling, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Separately in a larger bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, coffee and brown sugar. Mix vigorously until it is smooth and frothy, then whisk in the brown butter. Carefully add in the flour mixture with a spatula until fully combined, then fold in the chocolate and cashews.
Using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, form the dough into balls (roughly either 2 or 3 tbsp depending on the cookie size you want- I did 2 since M likes smaller cookies) and place on the prepared cookie sheet, with about 2 inches of space between each. Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, cover the pan with plastic wrap, then set in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.
Take the cookies out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). After 15-20 minutes of letting the cookies return to room temperature and once the oven is heated, bake them for 10-12 minutes or until just the edges are golden brown (cooking times may vary depending on your oven- you might want to check after 9 minutes). The centers should still feel soft and under-baked to the touch when you pull them out. Let cool for about 10 minutes (if you can wait) before devouring.
- 1/2 cup (112g) unsalted butter
- 1 3/4 cups (227g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp strong brewed + cooled coffee
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 170g dark chocolate chunks
- 50g roasted + salted cashews, roughly chopped