Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Comfort Food

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.


  1. A comfort dumpling to me is one of those big fluffy white ones that stickily float on top of the soup. Not those little hard eggy plops that you guys always made me make :)

  2. I guess it would have to be spegheti (if I pick it as a comfort food, I should learn how to spell it). It was always one of my choices when I had to make dinner for the week, and then I ate it through internships andn college. To be "comfort" spehetti the followingn ingredients must be there: homemade sauce, olives, ground meat. Anything else is just good food, not comfort food.

    2nd choice would be chile rellano casserole (which doesn't really count because it was my favorite food that I chose for birthday dinners)

    3rd choice would be beans. Just because we had it all.the.time. growing up.

  3. No, you had it *often* growing up. We had beans all the time! What I remember is that very often the beans ran out of water and scorched on the bottom. Very often.

  4. While I think of what my comfort food is, I will comment on your backdrop: Christmas present!!

  5. yes, it looked sort of down-home, comfortable, deserty (not desserty) and beanish.

  6. aaack!! BEANish? *sniff*
    I guess my problem is that I never much liked the pinto-bean-and-corn-bread dinner. I guess comfort food doesn't pass down in the genes.

    I've figured my comfort least what I can think of now that I actually make and think about.

    Hot and Sour Soup. I'll add in enough to make it however hearty I want it to be, and I remember fondly all of the times we have tried to perfect it. I always have things on hand to make it. Plus, I have the *fond* memory of when I tried to make it by myself for the first time. But maybe I'll write a blog on that, because it ties in with something else ;P

  7. beans- the meal that taught me that if you cook in a soup and add enough salt and lemon pepper I can and will eat ANYTHING

  8. do you realize how cheaply you can eat if it's beans?