Void Fillers - Miso Sad Soup

Monday, 13 March 2017

It's me, Charly Cox, your friendly neighbourhood manic depressive, back on the internet!
I've dealt with depression for the best part of my adult life, the plight of mood swings and sad strung showers, the galaxies of carbon coloured fog speckled with high reaching stars that suggest that maybe it's not forever, the lying, the embarrassment, the anxiety, the sleeplessness of it, the void.
The void is my least favourite flavour of depression.
It's the bit where your brain feels lazy, it's too tired to feel sad.
Your heart is too heavy to beat too fast, your appetite isn't here nor there, everything's just a bit bland and my god it's boring. When will it bloody end?
I write this to you, from exactly there, the void, working out how to fill it.

I've got quite good over the last few years learning what works, what definitely doesn't and what helps season even the most seasoned pro's sad salad. So I wanted to revisit and share the recipes, the books, the musicians and the artists - the snippets of overheard advice and the prescribed bits humanised, in hope that it might get me out of this rut and help anyone that's slumped in a similar stupor.

This is the first 'Void Filler' and the first recipe. It's simple, it's delicious, it's quite a good baby step.

Last year I made the soul crushing decision to quit chicken nuggets. I loved chicken nuggets with a gargantuan heart I've never pressed against another human, ever. It was immeasurably difficult.
But slowly, once my McCravings subsided, I began a process of radically changing the way I thought about food.
I am a particularly talented emotional eater, I'm the cookie monster of a potato waffle and white bread sandwiches stuffed with pasta and baked beans variety, desperately trying to fill a void.
Instead of plugging it, that expanse of terrified emotion would always grow larger and more complex because I'd hate my body more and more, my skin would erupt with craters and I'd feel exhausted from carb overload.

So I learnt to cook.
I got excited about food and what it can do, I read up on ingredients that 'scientifically' make you happier and, just like nearly every other white middle class girl on the internet, I'm going to tell you - my switch to a, gulp, mostly vegan diet... was revolutionary. Ironically, 'clean eating' was the dirtiest thing I used to be able to think of and now in a measured way instead of becoming something I always hated, it's helped to stop me hating myself at all.
I'm not restrictive, I'm just mindful of how I'm feeling.
If I'm in a good place - a potato waffle, a whole bar of Galaxy and a chicken nugget isn't going to spark a chemical imbalance, but if I'm edging towards darkness, I know it's not going to pull me back from it either. (Friendly side note - I am militant about vitamins etc. etc. etc. when I am sad and don't recommend chucking yourself in head first if you know you're not prepared for the slog because it could make you feel worse. This isn't me screaming MEAT IS MURDER it's me nudging you in the ribs across the table with a glass of wine in my hand smiling 'Mate, did you know mushrooms and their selenium and vitamin D overload might make your brain fog a bit less shit?')

Cooking has become this fundamental piece in my mental jigsaw, the sense of achievement when you master a dish, whether you have the stomach to eat it or not, is a satisfaction I've often found quite difficult to attain from anything else when all I want to do is stay in bed.
Miso Soup in its silky, hot and salty richness, was the first thing I began with and I come back to it often.
The health benefits are teetering on decadent for someone who doesn't feel worth nourishing and that's exactly why it took to be a form of afternoon meditation I obey when I start cry-watching daytime TV in my pants.
The process is mesmeric, soothing, there's little mess, there's little instruction, there's very little to it but a shit ton to take from it, like a giant hot ladle of it.
It fixes hangovers and heartbreak and in the right Anthropologie bowl - makes a great instagram that suggests you've got your shit together and haven't been back-flat-on-the-floor, toes-swaying-in-the-air, screeching to Dido 'White Flag'.

I never make it the same way and Deliciously Ella need not quake in her Birkenstocks over this recipe but here's a dish that I make for myself when stuff gets too much. This helps to fill the void.

  • 4-6 Mushrooms (of your choice) (it's good for your sadness so adjust measurement dependant on feelings)
  • Brown Miso Paste
  • A handful of rice noodles 
  • 1 large spring onion
  • 3 handfuls of Kale/spinach/leafy green stuff (it's good for your sadness so adjust measurement dependant on feelings)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Coriander 
  • Sesame seeds
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Cubes of tofu 
  • Soya sauce
  • Ginger
  • Sesame Oil
  • Salt/Pepper/Hot sauce
Chop the mushrooms, tofu, garlic and spring onion, throw it in a saucepan with a teaspoon of sesame oil and let them soften, stick the kettle on - have a cuppa in one hand and mix a jug of miso paste (a hefty tablespoon) in the other with enough water to cover what's in the saucepan. Pour the miso stock over the mushrooms, tofu, onions and garlic and chuck in the rice noodles and leafy greens as well as the grated ginger, soya sauce and then some Worcestershire sauce (trust me on that one), in whatever amounts you think tastes good. Coriander and sesame seeds on top once served if you're up to it. Most of the time I'm not. Go back to the sofa, put Dido on pause and enjoy.

How do you fill the void? Let me know in the comments below and let's help each other out. x


  1. Charly, reading this, I found I've missed your writing much more than I realized and also that I enjoyed this and related to it, much more than I expected for a soup recipe. Your writing is always so eloquent and funny and you're able to put into words what I, and I'm sure other, also experience but can't describe. Much love x

  2. For a long time i didn't know what id do without your writing and now your back i wonder what i did without it for so long. Glad youre back home to us.

  3. Sad to see you sad Charly but thank you for continuing to help others when you're not feeling your best. It's more than a skill, it's so selfless and beautiful and I wish you could see it. Maybe you can. But I don't think you'd feel so bad if you knew how much you've helped me and so many others. Can't wait to make the soup. Joanna xx

  4. Oh god another vegan. Too bad Charly I used to like your work. But if I have to endure endless vegan rants and raves I'll bounce onto the next episode. Not loving it.

  5. I try to fill the void tidying/decorating my room.
    Thank god you're back, i've missed your posts a lot <3

  6. Thank you for always wanting to help. Youre a big sister but more sinical , i need that.

  7. oh yes oh yes, my favourite's back! i love it! Will you be including any poetry in this series? I hope so.... X

  8. Warms my heart to see you writing again! I've missed this site so much

  9. THANK YOU! I am rubbish at making sure I eat properly when I feel horrible but this looks easy enough for me. Lol at the Anthropologie line. Glad you're writing for us again, Charly.

  10. It's amazing what a difference cooking can make in your mood. I always feel like cooking something from scratch, smelling spices and making split decisions about garlic or whether to add more of something, is one of the most invigorating things you can do.

    I make quite a similar soup, but instead of the rice noodles, I boil pot sticker dumplings (chicken or veggie, it's up to you), and then towards the end when I'm about to take the whole thing off the heat, I knock some red pepper or chili pepper into the mix. It's super good for fighting off a cold or sore throat.

  11. My void fillers consist of: your (and other similarly admirable people's) writing; Bon Iver; movies.

    Writing such as yours help me take life's serious blows more comically. I can now laugh a little about being manic depressive and through the shit times. I'd love some help - how do you cope with being manic depressive?

  12. You're an absolute gem, Charly.

    Love, a confused little soul in Australia.

  13. You're back, the miso sad soup is just so fucking poetic, well done.
    (I also happen to be the one person who pointed THAT comment out), I cannot wait for the next post, you were always something I could sit down to read, i do hope you make some type of book soon!
    xx soshemadeamess

  14. Excellent, bought the ingredients today. Brilliant start of what I hope will be a lot more blog posts. Keep going, Charly. Your words and work(and instagrams)help me and it looks like many others with filling the void and cheering us up. When I am particularly bad I think of my favourite place - it's a vague scene, more of a feeling, a splash of colour, but it's in my favourite country and it kindles the hope. When life sucks, I try to remember I have lived through worse. Stick it out, let it pass by and when you have a tingle of energy, excitement or motivation - grasp that little bit of magic and try to make the most of it and it will eventually appear bigger and better again. Thanks again, Charly. Kat xx

  15. Jesus I am so happy you are writting again, I missed your words. Loved this one (as I always do)

  16. I love the 'its good for your sadness'. It becomes such a tangible thing when you live with it in and out of your life, so much so that you build it a little home - but try not to let it build an extension. Your writing is great, you are talented and I'm proud of you (even though I'm an internet stranger)

  17. I have myslef tried out miso sad soup receepi and its aweosme.

  18. thanks for the information provided. please keep posting more such awesome posts.

  19. thank you sir, for giving us the knowledge we were looking for.



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