If you’re dreading the holidays, this could be the perfect time to fix and eat some comfort food. There’s no real need to define the phrase: we all know what it means to us personally. David Tanis commented on the very individual nature of comfort foods in, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes:
“What a strange idea: “comfort food.” Isn’t every food comforting in its own way! Why are certain foods disqualified? Can’t fancy food be soothing in the same way as granny food?” Must it always be about loaded memories, like Proust’s Madeleine? Or can it be merely quirky, like M. F. K. Fisher’s tangerine ritual: she dried them on a radiator, then cooled them on her Paris windowsill. Comfort food—food that reassures—is different things to different people.” ~ David Tanis, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes (Source)
Comfort food doesn’t just nourish our bodies, it fosters emotional well-being. It’s “nostalgic or sentimental value” is complemented by its high caloric content. (Source)
I wonder if anyone things of non-fat yogurt as comfort food? I highly doubt it. For me, it’s a big pile of mashed potatoes with butter, salt and pepper. My mother thought a bowl full of crumbled saltines covered in milk was the panacea for sorrow. When asked, a neighbor of mine was quick to say “grilled cheese sandwiches”. (But not just any grilled cheese would do – it had to be yellow American cheese on soft, squishy, white bread–just like she ate as a kid).
It’s not surprising comfort food is a good thing to serve at funerals and memorial services (occasions when everyone could use some tender loving care, not just in the form of hugs and condolences), but in food.
You may remember this was the topic of a 2013 Urn Garden post, “Not Sure What to Say at the Funeral? Make a Meal”:
“And then there’s funerals. I may not remember the songs that were played or even where the services were held, but I do recall the food that guests brought to the family house before the service and the reception following it. If you’re like most, you know that casseroles, macaroni and cheese, Jell-O molds and lasagna was –and still are– pretty popular.”
Today, the internet is fat with recipes of classic comfort foods that families now refer to as “funeral food”. Potatoes, cakes, and casseroles that melt in your mouth and will feed a houseful of guests.
So, what’s your idea of comfort food?
If you’re drawing a blank, don’t be dismayed. Just think back to your childhood – chances are good something will pop-up. (One person I asked thought of McDonald’s hamburgers and fries as comfort food. For his wife, it was oatmeal with brown sugar. Your comfort food could be anything–as long as it meets just one criterion: eating it relieves you of stress and helps to make you genuinely happy.
Nothing coming to mind? Maybe jog your memory – or get inspired–by looking around online.
One last link, and then I’ll go. Just this month, on November 5th, 2017, the Register~Herald posted “Giving meaning to comfort food”, where the author, Michelle James, wrote of the therapeutic value of food in one woman’s life–a time of deep grief – and how she was eventually drawn to write a cookbook featuring “her own (recipes), her mother’s, her grandmother’s, friends’, co-workers’, neighbors’. Some were clipped and some just handed down from someone else.” I’m sure compiling recipes–in and of itself a loving act–was comforting to her, as was reliving the memories of sharing these comfort foods with family.
One last thing, and then I’ll go. It’s a quote from Eli Brown’s Cinnamon and Gunpowder: “Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey.” (Source) I think he’s got something there, but I’ll take it one step further. It’s not just about going home after a long journey; it’s about feeling welcome when you arrive.