by Marcia Talley
Outside my office window autumn leaves are falling like snow. When I fetched the newspaper from the driveway, there was a slight chill and the smell of wood smoke in the air. Macaroni and cheese for dinner, I thought. Creamy, cheesy, bubbly, lightly browned on top.
You’re right there with me, aren’t you?
It’s what we crave when it’s nasty outside and we’re snug at home with our nearest and dearest (or simply wishing that we were).
According to the dictionary, comfort food is any food that “provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a higher sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”
Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Oreo cookies and milk.
I’m drooling right now just thinking about my mother’s Sunday chicken and dumplings, or her version of Campbell’s classic tuna-noodle casserole. (SECRET: Ditch the peas and substitute sliced olives with pimento.)
But it’s a lot more than missing Mom and waxing nostalgic about the good old days. Comfort food can be cultural, too.
I grew up in China. Nothing like a heaping bowl of jiaozi (pot stickers) to chase away the blues.
For my husband, who was raised in rural Kentucky, it’s hot water hoe cakes, warm from the skillet, swimming in maple syrup.
Anneli Rufus explains it this way in an article in Gilt Taste. "It’s not only a rush of sensations that make us feel safe, calm, and cared for, but it’s a complex interplay of memory, history, and brain chemistry, and while some basics apply — most of us are soothed by the soft, sweet, smooth, salty and unctuous — the specifics are highly personal."
Food is the gift we give ourselves.
Food is the friend who never disappoints.
Food is the lover who never leaves.
There are studies that divide comfort food into four categories --indulgence, physical, nostalgic, and convenience foods.
Patterns have also been detected when it comes to men and women; some of the studies have shown that men tend to choose warm and vigorous meals such as steak, while women tend to choose snacks such as ice cream.
Speaking of ice cream, I think there’s a carton of Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche in my freezer.
The upcoming elections. My book deadline, ominously looming. Excuse me while I go to the kitchen and self-medicate. And while I’m rustling up a bowl and spoon, why not take a few minutes and tell me about your favorite comfort food?