What makes comfort food so….darn comforting? Why do we get cravings for foods that aren’t culinary masterpieces? Why is it that a bowl of mac & cheese on a cool Winter’s day just puts me in a happy place? Or even say….gasp!…a packet of noodle soup? Is the flavor of those dishes so out of this world that they are each deserving of their own Michelin star? No, of course not. In fact, I’d argue that it has nothing to do with their flavor at all. It has everything to do with where they take me. Enjoying food is like having your own personal time-travel machine or private jet. In just a few bites, I can be quickly transported through time and space, to specific memories, people, places. Well, in my mind at least.
Mac and cheese, cooked with some stewed tomatoes and ground beef all in one big casserole bowl. Not exactly restaurant material, eh? Ha, at home, we even named the dish “mush”. It was perfect when you were six years old, had a sore throat, and just wanted to cuddle up on the couch with your mom and a blanket wrapped around you. It’s certainly no culinary star, but to me it will always be comfort food, because every time I make it I remember her taking care of me when I was little.
I think sometimes we have a tendency to underestimate the power that food holds over us. It can make us laugh or cry, bring us joy or sadness, or a myriad of other emotions on so many different levels. Trying to view food as a mere vehicle for calories and nutrients misses a bit of the point. It is the meal, and the life experiences around which the food is eaten that give it meaning and power. And as such, we can use our memories to create new comfort foods. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about living thousands of miles away from friends and family, it’s that new traditions can be forged just as easily as the old ones are enjoyed. Tacos are my new comfort food.
When I think of tacos, I don’t think of “omg those were SO amazing the last time I ate them, I want to taste that again!” No. Instead, I think back to our time in FL at Thanksgiving, all the fun memories with family and friends, and remembering how lucky I was to be given the opportunity to see such beauty and color:
Afterall, that is what is important, right? Otherwise how else would we deem certain foods “comfort food” or choose to make the same familiar plates time and again? Have you ever noticed that no two people have exactly the same set of foods they would label as “comfort”? You know by now that I am always one to fawn over flavorful food, but there is often more than taste alone that brings me back to a dish, that gives me a craving for memories of those familiar bites. Sometimes, even the mere concept of a dish is all I need, as it was in this case. Not too far down this beach was a little outdoor bar & grill where we all gathered as a family, just having a grand time laughing and enjoying each other’s company, eating tacos with fresh caught seafood and bright fruity notes, and enjoying the many colors of the changing day over the ocean.
Yeah, the photo above is a sunrise, and no the bar was not open then. But you get my point, it was pretty, we had fun, this pic is just showing you some of the pretty of FL beaches that week.
So last weekend, Ryan and I both got a hankering for tacos. Maybe it was the sudden warm-spell here en Suisse (a whole 12 ºC!) that prompted a desire for bright citrus flavors, or maybe we just wanted some lighter fare after trying to get through our gazillion servings of rich cassoulet. Whatever the reason, tacos hit the spot, and the first thing Ryan said to me was, “Remember that awesome place we all enjoyed together on the beach at Thanksgiving? I miss that week so much.”
Yep, tacos just elevated themselves to the status of comfort food.
Prep Time: 15 min, to marinate fish and chop taco fixings
Cook Time: around 10 min to fry the fish
- a couple filets of white fish
- 1 lime
- 1/2 packet your favorite taco seasoning (check labels to make sure GF)
- a little olive oil
- lime, sliced
- hard-shell corn tacos (check labels to make sure GF)
- mango, chopped
- tomatoes, chopped
- red chiles, sliced
- slices of lime for garnish
- manchego cheese, shredded
1. Place fish filets in a plastic bag with some lime juice and taco seasoning, and let marinate about 10 minutes (not long enough to become ceviche, just long enough to give some flavor)
2. Heat a skillet with some olive oil, and quickly fry the fish until cooked through. Use your fork to pull the filet apart into bite-sized pieces.
3. Assemble your tacos – use the hard-shell tacos and fill with whatever makes you happy -fish, lettuce, mango, tomatoes, chiles, lime, and cheese for example. Enjoy!