The days have been cold, damp and foggy. We have been keeping a fire in our wood-burning stove smoldering all day long for the last week. In the morning, I stir up the leftover coals and add a fresh stick of oak to bring the temperature up to my comfort level. It’s so dim because of the dark foggy day, that I turn on lights wherever I go. Each morning, I enjoy a few minutes of bright warm sun in my face. I slowly wake from sleep at 6 a.m. feeling the bright beams of summer sun flooding through my eyelids. As I become more awake, I try to prolong the fantasy by silently repeating to myself, the sun is shining, the sun is shining… until I open my eyes and it’s only my sunrise clock and the windows are black. These are perfect days for Comfort Food.
Comfort Foods are very interesting to me, because they have nothing to do with favorite foods. Favorite foods are for a night out at a nice restaurant, for a party, or for impressing your dinner guests. Favorite foods are what you choose for your birthday dinner. My favorite foods are nicely seasoned, piquant, spicy, have a mix of textures and even a mix of temperatures. I like the hot fudge dressing the cold vanilla ice-cream on a sundae. I like a crunchy salad topped with creamy, tart goat cheese and candied pecans. My favorite Chinese restaurant dish is hot and spicy basil chicken. I love a well-cooked ham, salty, tender, and covered with a honey glaze. But when I’m depressed, sick, or cold, I turn to Comfort Food.
I believe that Comfort Foods are mostly created in childhood. Not only is it good food, but it brings back nostalgic homey feelings of being cared for and nurtured. It’s easy food; no theatrics or issues surround it. It was made often and has an inherent identity in your family, sometimes ethnic, sometimes regional.
My Comfort Food is long-cooked plain pinto beans with either a few strips of bacon or a ham bone for seasoning. Salt to taste. Add a pan of cornbread. One big piece goes in the bowl of beans. For this reason the beans must have plenty of liquid to soak into the cornbread. The other piece of cornbread on my plate has a pat of butter and a spoon of honey pushed into it. As a kid, I never would have chosen this meal to be my food therapy, my Comfort Food. It was boring. It was all too frequent. There were other effects. So it was with some surprise that, once I was grown, I recognized what my Comfort Food was. You don’t choose it; It chooses you.
What is your Comfort Food? Stew? Meatloaf? Chicken soup? What connotations does it bring? To what place in time do you go back when you eat it? Or is it a new food you have discovered?
And now, excuse me while I go medicate myself with some pintos and cornbread.
Life is an adventure, and face it, food is a big part of life. Very good food, very bad food, and even mundane, boring food has something interesting embedded in it that can be pried out with a good opener.