January 18, 2011
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.
October 24, 2010
Growing up in New England, clam chowder is total comfort food for me. There was this place on the shore that served New England style chowder in sourdough bread bowls… oh sweet heaven. The first time I took my husband to New England to see my old “stomping grounds”, I showed him my favorite things growing up, many of which involved food. What can I say, foods are strongly linked to memories. I had already decided at that point (and so had he) in our dating that we were meant to be. Aww, we were grad students, young and in love….