On Comfort Food

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post. I just know I’ve eaten stew twice this week (mmmm), and it’s got me thinking about the phrase “comfort food.”

Merriam-Webster online defines comfort food as “food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” Sounds pretty good, huh? But I have all these associations with “comfort food” that aren’t so positive. To the point where eating stew — i.e., meat and veggies — feels like nearly as bold a transgression of “healthy eating” dictates as, oh, I don’t know… what would be a clever example of unhealthy eating in the traditional manner of the fat person? Hmmmm… Oh, right! STUFFING MY FACE WITH DONUTS.

(I think we might need to make that the phrase of the week. Fillyjonk and Sweet Machine, I demand that every post made here between now and next Friday include a reference to stuffing the face with donuts.)

(Or not.)

Off the top of my head, here are some of the associations I have with “comfort food” (which I should probably note I always think of in terms of savory food, not desserts):

  • fatty
  • bland, or at least not exotically spiced
  • mushy
  • “emotional eating” — heaven forfend!
  • “peasant food” — how my mother tended to refer to anything stewlike
  • cheap
  • not suitable for company
  • not visually appealing (usually brown or whitish)
  • a “guilty pleasure.”

Sounds kind of nasty when you put it like that, doesn’t it? And I have all that shit going through my head every time I eat something I categorize as comfort food — guilt, snobbery, repulsion, questions about my real psychological motivation for eating it.

Which kind of takes the fun out of the fact that it fucking tastes good and, in the case of soups and stews, is usually pretty nutritionally complete. Not to mention simple to prepare and inexpensive. And… comforting — insofar as anything tasty and filling is comforting because, you know, I’m human. I’m designed to like tasty and filling food.

The problem, of course, is that the tasty and filling element of most comfort foods — at least in the American tradition — is fat. Butter and milk make mashed potatoes taste good (sour cream helps, too). Cream makes veggie soup taste good. Fatty cuts of meat make stew taste good. Cheese makes mac taste good. Sausage makes sausage taste good.

These things taste good, fill you up, don’t cost a lot of money, and release natural opioids in your brain. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Fat. Never mind whether you serve them alongside vegetables (or — gasp! — put fat directly ON the vegetables). Fat is the enemy. Fat will kill you. Fat cancels out the nutritional value of anything served in conjunction with it. Or even, one suspects, in the same room with it. Thus, “comfort foods” are to be eaten only rarely, and only with a side of guilt and embarrassment.

Lately, I’ve been going through one of my semi-annual phases where I obsessively read food blogs and recipes, but never actually make any of the things I bookmark. And inevitably, if a recipe for something high in fat is reader-submitted, or on a blog, it contains some sort of apology/warning: I don’t usually eat like this. This is not an everyday thing. This will stop your heart, but it’s really good. Enjoy, but don’t overdo it.

Take this recipe from Blue Kitchen for “Dangerously Good Linguine Non Carbonara.” The blog entry about it includes this:

Yes, there are veggies aplenty in this carbonara. You know—vegetables, salutary, nutritious, radiating their sunny health benefits throughout your being. Well, don’t let the jolly presence of vegetables fool you. Any lurking health elements they may possess are eradicated by the lavish use of the bacon, and the sautéing, and then the great lashings of egg and cheese. All you have left is extreme deliciousness.

Emphasis mine.

Actually, no, the health benefits of vegetables are not eradicated by the presence of fat. They are, in fact, complemented by the health benefits of eggs — an excellent source of protein (with all the essential amino acids your body needs), all the B vitamins, plus A, D, E, and numerous essential minerals — and the calcium in the cheese, and the heart-healthy fatty acids in olive oil. Even the bacon has niacin and selenium, along with more protein — which, granted, isn’t really lacking in a dish that already contains eggs and cheese. The pasta’s got your starch and fiber. And then there are the aforementioned loads of veggies.

But, oh, THE FAT!

Fat, it would seem, has a magical power to sap all those vitamins and minerals and other nutrients from the rest of your meal. Even though, you know, fat’s necessary to absorb a lot of vitamins and minerals. YOU JUST SHUT UP ABOUT THAT! FAT KILLS!

I mean, do you need eggs, bacon, and cheese on your pasta? Fuck no. Of course not. But it sure tastes good. And there sure are a lot of nutrients in that combo — especially when combined with veggies and pasta — that get overlooked when you’re hung up on fat.

And we are all so fucking hung up on fat. Which, I imagine, is how beef, potatoes, carrots, peas, and onions went from being “a square meal” to a “guilty pleasure.”

As for the inevitable caveats on fatty recipes, I have to ask: what is an “everyday” meal? The only person I know who ever actually ate the same thing every day is my dad, in the years between my mom’s death and his remarriage. Oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich and salad for lunch, frozen pasta with frozen veggies for dinner, every fucking day. Most of us, I think, could not keep that up the way he did. Most of us crave more variety — ’cause, you know, that’s how we get all the different nutrients our bodies need (including fatty acids), and our bodies are awfully smart that way. (You’ll note that dad was getting a balance of all the major food groups every day, which one assumes is why his body didn’t flip out and demand something else. But most of us also don’t have his unbelievable tolerance for boredom.)

I love this post at Pinch My Salt, which goes into great detail about how the author, Nicole, started fantasizing about broccoli while on the elliptical machine at the gym one day. (Her roasted broccoli recipe looks pretty awesome, too.)

I had been planning on using the broccoli for either a quiche or some soup but all of a sudden I couldn’t stop thinking about eating the broccoli by itself. I just wanted to go home, steam it, and eat it. All of it….

No, it’s not normal for me to daydream about vegetables at the gym. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been eating almost nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches for the last week or so. My body needed something green!

And that, my friends, is what happens when you trust your body instead of punishing yourself for eating “bad” foods and congratulating yourself for eating “good” ones. You eat grilled cheese (a celebrated comfort food, of course) for a week, and suddenly, you’re beset by inappropriate thoughts about the head of fresh broccoli in your fridge. (Likewise, if you eat steamed broccoli for a week, you’re going to be craving some protein and fat like whoa, which is one more problem with dieting.) That is what intuitive eating is all about. You don’t need to tell your body what it must and mustn’t eat — if you let it be, it will tell you.

So there’s really no need for those warnings on fatty recipes; no matter how good that Linguine Non Carbonara is, I’m not going to want bacon and cheese for dinner every night. (Okay, Al might, but that’s another story.) I’m going to crave Nicole’s roasted broccoli some nights, and her horseradish meatloaf other nights, and her veggie chili beans and brown rice other nights, and her biscuits and gravy other nights. (I’m really loving this blog, if you can’t tell, which I discovered via Lindsay’s rave review of the blue cheese burgers.) Not to mention the various cravings for green salad, spinach, red peppers, garlic, asparagus, and basil– which are all fairly common in my brain (even if I do, naturally, routinely ignore those cravings in favor of STUFFING MY FACE WITH DONUTS). If I listen to my body, I don’t need anyone to tell me not to “overdo it.” My body knows what it’s doing.

The demonization of certain foods can make us blind to the simple fact that cravings mean something, or we wouldn’t have them in the first place. The translation between what our bodies need and what we crave isn’t always perfect, of course. The first time my body said, “Hey, beef stew sounds really good” this week, I ended up immediately devouring all the carrots, then peeking under the beef and potatoes, which only vaguely interested me, to see if I’d missed any. Had my body issued me a handy printout that read, “Dear Kate, you could really use some beta-carotene,” I might have gone in a different direction. But it didn’t, so I didn’t. And I ate a ton of carrots anyway — alongside the fat needed to absorb said beta-carotene, and some protein and carbs to make it a complete meal — so as far as I’m concerned, my body told me everything I needed to know. Well done, body.

Similarly, if you find yourself dying for grilled cheese or mashed potatoes, you might need calcium; for meatloaf, iron; for eggs, B vitamins. Now, if this were a diet blog, my next move would be to tell you that by that logic, if you crave grilled cheese or mashed potatoes, you should try eating low-fat yogurt; if you crave meatloaf, you should try eating kidney beans or spinach; if you crave eggs, you should try eating some nutritional yeast.

Fortunately, this is not a diet blog. So all I’m gonna tell you is what I always tell you: eat what you crave. ‘Cause you also might be craving grilled cheese or mashed potatoes for the fiber, meatloaf or eggs for the protein. Or any of the above for some other nutrients you don’t even consciously associate with them and thus couldn’t replace with “healthier” choices if you tried. Your body might even — gasp! — be craving fat for a good reason, like to help you absorb certain vitamins or just, you know, keep your hair, skin and organs healthy.

Or, you might just crave comfort food because you want some goddamned comfort. Tell me again what’s wrong with that?

153 thoughts on “On Comfort Food

  1. It was a real eye opener to me to find out that many vegetables metabolize their nutrients more easily when served with a small amount of fat, like say a pat of butter.

  2. Awesome subject.

    Look, I’m elderly enough to remember when it was considered “healthy” to substitute margarine for butter, okay? And to be honest with you, I’m a lot more concerned about the amount of margarine floating around in my circulatory system from the mass consumption up until about the age of 32, than I am about clogging myself up with any biscuits and gravy. If I want biscuits and gravy (or an apple pancake made with lots of egg and butter, like I’m making right now), I will freaking well have them. Better that than eat something healtheeeee that doesn’t satisfy me and have the munchies all day long. Munchies are annoying while you’re trying to work.

    And “everyday foods,” my white puckered buttock. What about all those people who ate bread and gravy every day during the Great Depression because that was all there was to eat? Did they all drop dead by the time they were 50? Not even close.

    Besides, I am one of those weird people who considers sushi to be “comfort food.” Yellowtail, ahhhh.

  3. What about all those people who ate bread and gravy every day during the Great Depression because that was all there was to eat? Did they all drop dead by the time they were 50? Not even close.

    Oh, Amen to that. Bread and gravy was my grandfather’s favorite food for most of the time I knew him. He lived to 94.

  4. My comfort food is cornbread. Possible stirred into a big ol’ glass of milk a la my Poppy. I don’t crave it every day or even all that often, but when I do, I honor the craving because it makes me seven years old again, sitting at the big kitchen table with my grandfather for the very last time.

    Eating it makes the memory seem real and therefore the love attached to the memory feels real, too. Can’t be anything wrong with that.

  5. I’m making some “comfort food” right now – bean soup with a big fatty hamhock in the middle of it. So there! to the Food Police…

  6. Heh, my skinny, non-cook husband who considers pomegranates “way more trouble than they’re worth” (!) ate just like your dad until we married. Same boring food, every day.

    Of course, now he’s all spoiled and has been known to request green veggies or a special chili. He finally figured out that food can be more than just fuel to carry on with the next project.

    And today for lunch I had my own home-made stew and some clementine oranges. And they were freakin’ delicious.

  7. Oh, and guess what just happened? I actually forgot the eggs when I was making my apple pancake just now. I wondered why it wasn’t getting all puffy the way it was supposed to. And no, it doesn’t taste the same at all.

  8. Meowser…hmm. Each to their own. I like sushi, sure (although I’ve only had supermarket sushi, and next time I’m in Seattle I really have got to get myself to a decent sushi bar and try ‘proper’ sushi).

    But for maximum comfort effect, for me, fish has to be tucked up in a snuggly blanket of cheesy sauce, under a quilt of mashed potato. Preferably it has to be salmon, but white fish is OK and it helps if there’s also broccoli involved. Now that is serious cold rainy night cuisine, and the urge for it only tends to strike on, well, cold rainy nights. And why the heck not?

  9. This post made me want stew. :o)

    I found out recently that my cholesterol is a little high, so I thought maybe I should eat red meat less often to help that , though I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth it… beef seems to be all I can think about now, and I only had it about once a week before I found out about my cholesterol.

    Accordingly, I tried transforming my beef stew recipe into a veggie stew recipe, partially for the above reason, and partially because we’ll be having my in-laws over the night before Thanksgiving, and I was hoping to find something easy and cheap to feed to my vegetarian father-in-law. I totally thought I was just craving stew, but given how disappointed I was with the complete lack of beef-taste in the stew (we used veggie broth instead of beef stock), I’m pretty sure I just wanted steak.

    Le sigh. I brought some of the stew for lunch today, and now I’m sort of sad thinking about it.

  10. I’m starting over with finding some comfort foods. Warm and fuzzy feelings that used to accompany certain foods have vanished, because when my bulimia was out of control, that’s what I ODed on. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oatmeal, oreo cookies, pasta, and vegetables+noodles that are even vaguely oriental in flavor- blah. I was about to type “gag me with a spoon” after that, but that phrase is entirely insensitive considering my post topic. >_>

    So, anyway… comfort foods for me are newer things. I used to eat and eat and eat the same stuff over and over. But now I like big bowls of popcorn, baked potatos and yogurt, and pudding. It’s nice to shift gears. The only thing I didn’t kill with binging was pancakes. And that’s because my fiance is the only one who can make them decently. I char them like nobody’s bidness.

  11. Mmmm. Apple Pancake….*homer simpson drool*

    This is a great post because I just did a food entry on my blog (Mexican food! The fabulous deliciousness!) and I was SO tempted to put the “I don’t normally eat like this” disclaimer. I didn’t. Because I nor anyone else has to apologize for eating what they want.

    Ok, off to make the empanada dough! Mmmm…chicken empanadas…..

  12. You know, I’ve wondered about the societal use of “comfort food”. I watch a LOT of Food Network (way more than I should, probably, but when you cook 21 meals a week…), and every time someone mentions “comfort food”, it’s always something that I associate with good menu planning and sensible budgeting – especially for families. And therefore, I associate just about everything I ate in my childhood with comfort: the comfort of coming home from school to a house that smelled of marinara and homemade bread, or coming in from playing to hot cocoa and cookies.

    But often, I found that element of disparagement – “Don’t eat like this!” “This is cheap, but it’s almost good enough for guests!”

    Why has it become fashionable to disparage good money, time, and resource management (a pot of spaghetti sauce will stretch for a week’s worth of meals in my house.)? When did “leftovers” become a dirty word? Why do we denigrate the meals that were so lovingly prepared for us when we were young?

    I have no idea, but I am going to make my all-time comfort favorite tomorrow: roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots. Oh, soooooo good.

  13. “He finally figured out that food can be more than just fuel to carry on with the next project.”

    Hee, I love this.

    I would say there’s really no need for disclaimers on recipes period. It drives me up the wall that no discussion of Rachael Ray (for example) can take place without people absolutely freaking out and raging about how terrible her food is for you. I eat high-fat “comfort foods” sometimes, and sometimes I eat lower-fat vegetarian entrees, and sometimes I have a burger and others a salad. And whoever is upset by the recipe probably eats exactly the same way unless they are on a diet; almost nobody has 100% sworn off “fattening” recipes, regardless of how horrified they purport to be about them.

    I don’t think there is any need to “balance out” a night of lasagna with a night of roasted veggies–I agree with the post, just make what sounds good and add side dishes if you want some more variety in the meal, and there you are. It’s fine.

  14. I’m starting over with finding some comfort foods. Warm and fuzzy feelings that used to accompany certain foods have vanished, because when my bulimia was out of control, that’s what I ODed on.

    Ooh, that’s interesting. But as you note, at least it’s possible to find new ones as you go along. I was inspired by this post to make spinach lasagna for lunch/leftovers to freeze, which I never ate growing up (and we rarely had regular lasagna), but which has definitely become a comfort food for me. That might have to do with the fact that it’s like 75% cheese, or the fact that it’s one of the few things I can make from memory without fucking it up. But it’s a new one in my comfort food arsenal, at any rate.

  15. One of the hilarious trends in vegan cooking recently is a move toward low-fat eating. I’ve had people tell me that the teaspoon of olive oil I use to cook mushrooms and kale is what’s making me fat. And that it’s just as yummy to ‘steam fry’ veggies as it is to roast them w/ olive oil (spoiler alert: it’s not.) Or that I should cook my oatmeal in water instead of almond milk (I have to use the low-fat kind anyway b/c it’s the only thing I can get around here) in order to be ‘healthy.’

    To which I reply: I may as well just not make food if it’s all going to taste like crap.

    If anything, watching a bunch of vegans – the kind who eat a tons of veggies and fruit and whole grain – get all wiggy about the idea of cooking with olive oil or putting peanut butter on their whole wheat toast, helped me see that the fear of fat is really an irrational phobia for a lot of people.

  16. Oh hey, I forgot to mention that the humble donut takes a lot of abuse round these parts, but I am a card-carrying donut-eating fatty. A plain cake donut with a cup of coffee or a glass of cider on a crisp fall day? Bonus points if served at a college football tailgate? May be one of my favorite comfort foods in existence. Mmmmm.

  17. I think it’s interesting that for people who aren’t really in touch with eating, through unhealthy food habits and weight preoccupation, or what-have-you, seem to consider “comfort food” to be like… a genre of food. Like Mexican food, or Italian food. I mean, comfort food for me is what makes me feel… uh.. comforted, ya know? Reminds me of good times, is something I’ve chosen specifically to supplement my day. But my mother defines comfort food as anything that is heavy, fatty and bad for you. Stuff you want to eat, but shouldn’t. I overheard some women in a line at the mall discussing “comfort food”, and shuddering with the horror of eating things swimming in gravy, butters and creamage. Like… they picture biscuits floating in tubs of flavor-death and other mushy, heart-stopping carbs. It’s weird.

    Maybe this is universally what a lot of people want to eat, but avoid for fear of the fattening. Or maybe it was like… concretely defined at some point.

  18. And that it’s just as yummy to ’steam fry’ veggies as it is to roast them w/ olive oil (spoiler alert: it’s not.)

    Hee!

    And no kidding about the craziness of that. For Christ’s sake, if you’re vegan, you need to worry a lot more about getting enough fat in your diet than cutting it out.

    But of course, if you’re a fat vegan, you must be cooking everything in a gallon of oil. Or secretly gnawing on sides of beef when no one’s looking.

  19. Oh hey, I forgot to mention that the humble donut takes a lot of abuse round these parts, but I am a card-carrying donut-eating fatty.

    Oh hell yes, SCG, me too! I’m half Canadian, for the love of Pete! However, I can’t recall ever eating two donuts in one sitting, let alone a dozen, let alone perpetually stuffing my face with them.

  20. Not a goddamn thing, Kate.

    This debate always reminds me of what people say about breastfeeding–if you do it past your child’s sixth month or so, some people become very judgmental and critical and will say things like, “Well it’s *just for comfort* isn’t it?” As if there were something wrong with a baby wanting comfort, for god’s sake. (Not to mention the fact that there are clear nutritional and immunological benefits to older children nursing.)

  21. Attrice, you’re vegan? But don’t you know that you can’t possibly be fat then? :::running and ducking:::

    Nice post :) I’ve been having a hard few weeks and my comfort food has been bacon. Mmmmmmmmm, bacon.

  22. Past six months is nothing, breastfeeding-wise. But my dad’s highschool girlfriend had her five year old son, standing next to her, hands on hips while he and his infant brother both breastfed. That’s just weird. And I can’t imagine anyone in a public situation being profoundly freaked out.

    But hey, babies are babies. And that’s what boobs is for. Teh comfort.

  23. Pingback: Grocery Store Revelations « Thornacious

  24. Oh, I have eaten two donuts in a sitting meelllions of times, though it will likely come as no surprise that I do not go in for stuffing my face with them on a regular basis myself. But mainly I was just kidding. And thinking about how I do enjoy the donut. :)

    “Attrice, you’re vegan? But don’t you know that you can’t possibly be fat then?”

    Eh, it’s probably because she eats too many carbs. These fatties just don’t understand nutrition! (eyeroll).

  25. One of my favorite quotes (unattributed) is “the common foods of childhood become the comfort foods of adulthood.” For me, I know it’s true– mashed potatoes, primarily!

  26. One of my favorite comfort foods is what I call “condiment pasta”: with sundried tomato pesto, regular basil pesto, olive paste, and crumbled feta cheese. Man, I love that.

    I am craving some vegetarian chili now, too! Comfort in the extreme!

  27. It annoys me the couple of times my housemate pointed out that the cheese and the advocado i was eating (on separate occasion) had fat in it – i immediately told him that well yes, it does, and its good because we actually NEED TO EAT FAT.
    He wasnt being a diet facist, or anything, just expressing that he didnt like the advocado’s taste and texture, and probably lusting after the cheese somewhat. This is the same guy who cooked half a pack of bacon and 3 sausages to finish them off, and ate them all in one sitting. He felt sick after too, not surprising ;)

    Ive been on a mad salad craving recently, due to overconsumption of chocolate, i think. mmmmmmmmaargglll salad.

  28. FWIW, Voodoo Doughnut here in PDX does make a vegan donut. And they sell buttloads of ‘em, too.

    And vegans can still eat bags of chips and guzzle Pepsi by the gallon! So fear not, vegans, you too can be included in fatty-two-by-four stereotypes.

  29. Or, you might just crave comfort food because you want some goddamned comfort. Tell me again what’s wrong with that?

    Well duh! Because comfort is for the weak!

    Anyone who needs comforting, at any time, ever, for any reason, is a wussy!!

    Which reminds me, I totally need to read Susan Faludi’s new book, about the macho-ization of the culture post-9/11, because dudes… there’s a total THING there – how needing/wanting comfort is emasculating and thus comfort foods are considered “feminine” and weak and… whoa. I think my brain just popped.

  30. Kate, I had two donuts in one sitting this morning and it was awesome. One apple fritter and one maple bar, breakfast of champions.

    I really think of comfort food as anything warm and hearty… some of it’s high fat some of it’s medium fat… but if you want it you definitely have to have it.

    I’ve always been very bad at denying my cravings (hence two donuts) I almost immediately start to obsess about whatever it is and can’t get anything done until I have it. Of course sometimes that craving is cheesy lasagna and sometimes it’s salad… so there you go.

  31. there’s a total THING there – how needing/wanting comfort is emasculating and thus comfort foods are considered “feminine” and weak and… whoa. I think my brain just popped.

    Ooh, Thorn, I’m intrigued, although I don’t necessarily think of comfort foods as “feminine” — I think of meat ‘n’ potatoes, the manliest of foods. BUT there is definitely the nurturing aspect to be considered. Comfort food represents Mommy, and it is categorically not “grown-up.”

    I also really wonder about how the class issues have shaped our fear of comfort foods, as they shape our fear of fat. Like I said, my associations include “peasant food,” “cheap,” and “not suitable for company.” This stuff is what poor people eat because they can’t afford and/or don’t know any better. If you want to prove you’re sophisticated, cosmopolitan, educated, and not poor, you certainly can’t be seen eating a bowl of beef stew.

    But it still tastes good, no matter how much money you have.

  32. If you want to prove you’re sophisticated, cosmopolitan, educated, and not poor, you certainly can’t be seen eating a bowl of beef stew.

    Well, it’s okay if you’re eating it, like, ironically. I was at a fairly pricy restaurant the other day, and one of the entres was “gourmet grilled cheese” for like $20. So you know, it’s okay to eat grilled cheese, but only if it’s dressed up, expensive grilled cheese. Our culture has some seriously weird class issues.

  33. My comfort food has always been warm, filling, starchy and fatty. Of course, the actual food has had to change since I don’t eat campbell soup casseroles anymore (a staple of my childhood.) But oh, mash potatoes, mac n cheeze, scrambled tofu (mixed w/ a bit of vegan mayo and stuffed into a warm tortilla) are just awesome.

    ShannonCC, I know! According to PETA*, I’m a completely fictional creature. Like a unicorn or something.

    *Sometimes I dream of vandalizing PETA billboards (especially the Go Veg, you fat fat fatty fattykins! ones) by putting up a huge picture of myself with a sign that says “Vegan for two years. Still fat.”

  34. You say “comfort food” and I immediately think “macaroni and cheese.” Seriously. I don’t really have any fat connotations stuck in my head with the concept of “comfort food.” To me, comfort food is what you go for when you want something warm (it’s always warm to me – I may crave ice cream now and then, but it’s not in the “comfort” category), familiar, easy to eat, and probably somehow reminds me of my childood. (I can’t think of a single comfort food that I now eat that I only discovered in adulthood.)

    They recently opened a restaurant entirely dedicated to mac and cheese in NYC – S’MAC. I’m in heaven. Haven’t been yet, but it’s getting on the schedule soon.

  35. They recently opened a restaurant entirely dedicated to mac and cheese in NYC – S’MAC

    Fuck, that’s one more reason I need to book a trip to New York.

    And oh, Sweet Jesus, I just went to their website and found this:

    Creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. It’s addictive!

    I’m booking a flight NOW.

  36. Also, now I really want a donut.

    Dude. No shit. A nice yeasty donut with chocolate and peanuts on it. Mmmmm.

    Ooh, Thorn, I’m intrigued, although I don’t necessarily think of comfort foods as “feminine” — I think of meat ‘n’ potatoes, the manliest of foods. BUT there is definitely the nurturing aspect to be considered. Comfort food represents Mommy, and it is categorically not “grown-up.”

    No, true – the foods themselves I don’t think are “feminine” because you’re right, so many of them are indeed very “masculine”: biscuits and gravy, beef stew, chicken fried steak, etc. etc. I think Lexy nailed it when she said comfort foods are generally “hearty” – I think that’s exactly right, and it’s that heartiness which makes the foods themselves more “masculine”, at least as far as the American culture tends to think of things.

    Honestly, I think you hit on it – most of these foods we associate with “Mommy”. I mean, I think of biscuits and gravy, and suddenly there’s a white-haired woman in a white-and-blue apron standing in a sun-lit kitchen (not REALLY, just in my mind there is – grin). Craving comfort foods is, I suspect, the adult equivalent of plopping on your butt at the playground screaming, “MOMMY!!!!” And well, there’s nothing masculine about that, y’know?

    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s only a gender thing. I think you’ve got a real point about the class/economic aspect as well on this. I mean, really, you can’t have something as culturally universal as the idea of “comfort food” (whatever the actual menu items that consists of may be) without it tying into, well, all kinds of shit.

  37. My comfort foods are
    a) mashed potatoes,
    b) vegetable stew (w/ a lot of potatoes) or
    c) warm chocolate pudding.

    I have learned to listen to my body and its cravings more (it was and still is a long and exhausting path). I have stopped caring about OMG FAT/CARBS/WHATEVER when my body craves a certain “bad food” (I shudder at the thought of categorizing food in bad or good) food and just give it bread, veggies, meat, cheese, donuts, etc.

  38. I’m half Italian & half Jewish. I was raised by the Italian side of my family. So you might be able to guess that most of my comfort foods are Italian, like lasangne, chicken, eggplant, and veal parm, baked ziti. Mmmmmm! It makes me hungry just thinking about it!

    I also like ice cream. A lot. I try to keep my consumption down too a once a week thing, not as a weight concern thing, but because it wreaks havoc with my stomach. But I do LUV ice cream. Has anyone else tried the new Hagen Dazs flavor, Sticky Toffee Pudding? It’s vanilla ice cream, mixed with toffee and pieces of brown sugar cake. Best. Ice Cream. Ever.

  39. Regarding the Mommy aspect: I have noticed that my comfort foods are very easy to eat: no chewing and quite uncomplicated. Kind of like baby food, if you will. So maybe I long to return to a time in my life that was relatively uncomplicated and in which I was cared for? *shrugs*

  40. Just to weigh in on the donut controversy. I come out on the side of donuts, but for me personally, they are a little too sweet. I do enjoy the occasional jelly donut, but they leave me with a sweet aftertaste that lingers for a while.

    Still, I’m not opposed to donuts. Donuts rock! They just don’t rock my world quite the way ice cream does.

  41. I’m realizing, in thinking about this post, that “comfort food” for me is eating the same thing every day. I don’t eat most really fatty or cheesy foods because of my digestive idiosyncrasies (although I can definitely see a baked potato with butter and sour cream being comfort food). But knowing that I can get totally reliable food, food where I know what it tastes like and I know it’s available, food with no surprises — that’s very comforting to me. You’d think I grew up with major food insecurity. (I mean the technical meaning of “food insecurity,” not just insecurity about food.)

    I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day right now except Friday lunches, and it’s little-kid food — cottage cheese and pineapple for breakfast, tuna sandwich and banana for lunch. At my old job it was Luna bar for breakfast, soup and crackers and fruit for lunch, but same idea — elementary school cafeteria stuff. It’s really really important to me to know that I can get something familiar and reliable — as anyone who’s been with me at a restaurant when they’re out of the One Thing I Get can attest. So comfort is not so much a quality of the food’s makeup as its familiarity and availability.

  42. Oh, and I don’t really eat donuts because I try only to eat a bunch of sugar at one whack if I can go to bed right after, so breakfast sugar is not a great idea. But I do love me some chocolate cake donuts, or especially donut holes. Possibly not as much as I love chocolate cake, though, which fortuitously is dessert sugar (yay!) instead of breakfast sugar (kinda boo!).

  43. I’ve noticed that if I just listen to my cravings and go with the flow, what my body wants is much healthier than anything my poor screwed up brain will produce. Head-tripping is the least healthy activity for me.

    And as for comfort food, I’m a big believer that we all find comfort in different foods and just accepting that comfort food plays its role isn’t going to bring down the wrath of anything. For me, Pad Thai and Bento is comfort food. Ritual, order, presentation, noodley goodness. Mmmm, comforting. And always what I want when the weather sucks or I’m getting sick.

  44. Oh, and I don’t really eat donuts because I try only to eat a bunch of sugar at one whack if I can go to bed right after, so breakfast sugar is not a great idea.

    You only think of donuts as a breakfast food? You totally fail at being fat.

  45. Also, I felt a little faint when Rose mentioned Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream, so I might have to get some. I’m worried about over-sweetness though. Rose, have you had Ben & Jerry’s creme brulee ice cream? I want someone who’s had both to tell me whether the former will turn out to be as tooth-hurtingly sweet as the latter, which was a disappointment.

    Shit do I love toffee though. Srsly.

  46. So Kate, when’s the last time you had white Minute Rice and unreconstituted cream of mushroom soup with your pork chops?

  47. FJ, I haven’t had the creme brulee, but I will say I don’t like overly sweet stuff, and I loved the STP ice cream. You only get a little of the toffee and or cake in each bite. It balances well.

  48. You only think of donuts as a breakfast food? You totally fail at being fat.

    Yeah, I guess I should be eating a box of them while sitting on the couch watching television, huh?

    Maybe if there were a Tim Horton’s nearby.

    (Honestly, I really do fail at being fat, because I don’t OWN any of the food fatties are supposed to eat. So donuts are genuinely only available to me between the hours of 9 and 5, because they just don’t exist in my house.)

    (Unlike cake, because I will honestly buy a piece any time I’m near the good cake store, just in case I want it sometime that week.)

    (And unlike the sticky toffee ice cream, which I totally have to get some now.)

  49. So Kate, when’s the last time you had white Minute Rice and unreconstituted cream of mushroom soup with your pork chops?

    Not recently enough!

    And come to think of it, beef stew is sort of a new development as comfort food for me, because I don’t recall Mom making that very often. Pot roast, yes; beef stew, no.

    Of course, both times I’ve had beef stew this week, it’s made me think I should make pot roast. So there you go.

  50. If I’m going to spend a lot of effort cooking, it’s going to be “comfort food.” Because I’m poor, and because it’s good, and because it’s bloody stupid to spend a lot of time on something I’m not going to want to eat when it’s done.

    And anyone who disparages mac and cheese just hasn’t found the right variation yet. (With cheddar and bleu cheeses and a bit of buffalo wing sauce, with Velveeta and swiss and diced ham, with smoked mozzarella, parmesan and bell pepper, etc.)

  51. You can totally eat peasant-food stewy kind of things and still look serfistikated enough to pass as rich city folk, so long as it’s FRENCH peasant food. Or Italian regional, or Moroccan, or anything made with super-local organic leash-walked ingredients … The requirement is authenticity or pretensions to authenticity. So, there’s tagine, pasta with wild boar ragu, braised lamb shank, etc, etc, etc… (Points off for crock pot; points on for Le Creuset Dutch oven on low heat in the oven for several hours.)

    I should say that I totally love all those things, they are delicious, so I’m emphatically pro all their fifteen minuteses of trendiness.

  52. Oh, and I don’t really eat donuts because I try only to eat a bunch of sugar at one whack if I can go to bed right after, so breakfast sugar is not a great idea.

    What? You’ve never enjoyed the mighty wunnerfulness of a donut or two, with a big glass of milk, consumed at midnight while watching a really fun movie???

    Honey, you should fix that. Pronto. I HIGHLY recommend it. :)

  53. Isn’t there a PBJ restaurant in New York too? Kate, let me know when your flight lands; I’ll be up in three hours.

    (Seriously if you go to New York, do not go without telling me first. I will go to the grilled cheese restaurant with you even if it means eating a bucket of Zantac.)

    This conversation is making me a little sad that I probably can no longer eat my childhood version of mac & cheese, which was out of the Vegetarian Epicure and was sooooooo gooooood. It involves Parmesan, Romano, and bechamel sauce. Now is really not the time to push it with my digestive system, sadly, or I’d just make it and screw the consequences.

  54. What? You’ve never enjoyed the mighty wunnerfulness of a donut or two, with a big glass of milk, consumed at midnight while watching a really fun movie???

    Oh shit, this sounds great! Make it donut holes and I’m in.

  55. My favorite comfort food is chickpeas cooked until tender, served warm with a little salt and with OMG FATTY Italian olive oil! Now I’m hungry.

  56. Also, Kate, you do know about Artisanal, right?

    No, I did not!

    But I think I just decided we need to have a ShapelyCon in New York, during which we eat there, and at the mac and cheese place, and the PBJ place and the Belgian fry place I can’t remember the name of (Suzi, help?). Fuck haute cuisine.

    Oh, but Artisanal reminded me, to Chicagoans, I can’t recommend Eno enough. They do nothing but wine, cheese, and chocolate. And oh my, they do it well.

  57. FJ – I haven’t tried B&J’s Creme Brulee, but I’ll do that and report back on the sweetness levels. It sure sounds heavenly!

  58. Kate, you better make it a week in NYC, because you also need to try:

    The Brooklyn Diner (that’s in Manhattan!) Their Stawberry Blonde Cheesecake is the stuff of cheesecake legend. Way better than Juniors in my opinion.

    and…

    Virgils Texas Barbeque – Try the Jayzee’s Trainwreck Fries – if you dare! Also, they make a delicous pulled pork sandwitch, and the banana pudding is fierce. Wash it all down with a mint julep.

  59. Seriously, I hope you do. I started reading here in late August, and God, it’s made a big difference. (Well, is making a big difference. It’s a process.) So, thanks.

    Awesome quality and variety, including price-point variety, of restaurants is definitely one of the best things about NY — maybe the best thing, because I’m not all that much of an arts person.

  60. Kate, oh, and DiFara’s, which fatshionista bias_cut describes as being the pizza against which all other pizza is measured. And as long as we’re eating comfort food we should go to Kitchenette. They have a picture on their menu that looks freakily like me and Sweet Machine.

    This is making me feel a little weird about my eating habits. I don’t really eat pizza OR mac and cheese OR grilled cheese anymore because of my stomach, and my favorite food in NYC is kitsune soba from Soba-Ya. I don’t want to be such a failure as a fatty!

    I will happily eat anything at Peanut Butter and Co. though. (I was apparently exaggerating about the jelly.) I’ve processed the fact that cheese hurts my stomach, but I’m still in denial about the peanut butter.

  61. This is more on the topic of cravings than comfort food per se, but the whole “if you’re craving meatloaf you might need iron” thing struck a chord. Without fail, I get mad hankerings for red meat about a week before that “special time” when I’m “not at my best” because “my vagina is bleeding” (thanks for that euphemism, The Onion!). Every goddamn month. And I am 99% sure it’s got something to do with iron stores.

  62. You people are making me crave donuts and do you KNOW how hard it is to find a gluten free donut? Rrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    If Shaplies go to NYC I’ll show up :) (yeah, I know, y’all are joking but . . . )

  63. I don’t know if it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been living in the UK for going on 5 years or what… but I don’t see people having this big hang-up with comfort food that you guys are talking about.

    But for myself, like Kate said, comfort food is “peasant-y type food.” Being raised by a 100% Polish grandmother has something to do with that though, I think. My biggest comfort foods are things like kolockies, pierogies, and fried cabbage (fried in butter with sesame seeds). Things I didn’t get all that often because said Polish grandmother was frequently working 2 jobs just to keep a roof over our heads, but when she made them… (my mouth is watering as I type). Then there’s the good ole’ Kraft Macaroni and cheese. She and I were just talking about this on Sunday – it’s childhood in a box! *lol* Not the greatest mac ‘n cheese, granted. But every time I eat it, I’m reminded of my childhood, which was a little strange compared to most people’s. I can’t even begin to describe the sheer joy I felt when I realized that both of the corner stores near my house (we just moved here in July) carry Kraft – I hadn’t even SEEN a box since May 2003. And my most recent favorite comfort food is something that I only learned to make since I moved here – by watching my best friend make it. Mince & dumplings. Most of y’all probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but believe me, it’s absolutely yummy-licious.

    As for the donut thing… I’m a card-carrying donut-eating fatty, too. But not all the time, and I’m picky with my donuts. Especially since I discovered Krispy Kreme donuts a few years back. Now, donuts just aren’t the same, so I really only eat them a few times a year (no, that’s not a typo, I really said year). They do have Krispy Kremes here in the UK, but I’d have to travel a couple of hundred miles south in order to find them, and as good as they are, they’re not quite worth THAT amount of trouble.

    Thinking about this subject made me chuckle a bit, though… because Hubby’s “comfort foods” aren’t things he remembers from childhood… it’s things he’s discovered since he married ME. His mother is a notoriously bad cook (I’ve tasted her cooking… YUCK doesn’t even come close), and according to him, I’m just as good if not better a cook as his grandmother was (and I’ve learned to cook a lot of the same things she cooked). But there are some things I’ve introduced him to that he absolutely loves. Like my homemade chili, for instance. My mashed potatoes (which come out only slightly lumpy [he likes them slightly lumpy], and with only a minimal amount of butter and milk). There’s a ton more, but you get the idea.

    But I agree with the general consensus so far. There’s nothing wrong with comfort foods every once in a while. I think if a person were eating comfort foods every single day, then there might be an underlying problem (not with the food, but with the WHY they’re eating them all the time).

    And like Kate (?) said, meat, gravy, and bread was a staple diet for a lot of previous generations. Did they worry about their weight? Not so much. Did they even HAVE anything to worry about? Not so much.

    That actually brings me to a theory of mine. I’ve wondered for a while now if it’s not the preservatives and over-processing of certain foods that have led to our being a nation of “fatties.” Because I know from talking with both my grandmother and my aunts and uncles that they were OFTEN eating things like pot roast with gravy, potatoes, etc., and my grandmother did a lot of baking back then (she didn’t work, so she had the time). And none of my aunts and uncles were fat. Heck, they’re still not what my mind considers fat. A little overweight, yes, but they’re all in their 40′s and 50′s and I wouldn’t expect them to be the same size as they were when they were in their 20′s. I’ve often wondered if everybody ate foods like what our parents and grandparents ate – made from scratch, using fresh ingredients ALL THE TIME – would there even BE an “obesity crisis?”

    But I suppose that would be a subject for another day. :)

  64. (yeah, I know, y’all are joking but . . . )

    The hell we are! I’m dead serious, personally. (But I’ve got a standing place to stay in the city, so there’s that.)

    (So does Sweet Machine, incidentally.)

    (We should totally do this.)

  65. Oh man, nuckingfutz said “grandmother” and it clicked: matzoh ball soup! Tsimmis! Fucking KUGEL!!

    Kate’s comfort foods didn’t resonate with me because she’s a GOY! That explains it.

  66. FJ, I have a lot of stomach problems too. I find for me it’s a matter of balance. Meaning, sometimes I’m going to eat in a way that will kind of mess my stomach up, but I can handle that pain pretty well, since I’m used to it, and I know exactly what brought it on. Stomach pains bother me a lot more when I don’t know what’s irritating me.

    But that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea for me to eat fried foods and dairy every day because, well, to be as subtle about this as possible, I’d be pretty unpopular ’cause no one would want to sit anywhere near me. If you catch my drift, and I think you do. I know TMI, but I was trying to be subtle at least!

    My motto is all things in moderation. But of course, every person has a different system and some people need to be more strict because their stomachs are suffereing worse than mine.

  67. I find for me it’s a matter of balance. Meaning, sometimes I’m going to eat in a way that will kind of mess my stomach up, but I can handle that pain pretty well, since I’m used to it, and I know exactly what brought it on.

    Normally I’m totally with you. I definitely have times when I’ve thrown caution to the winds, and I’m just like “listen, I want grilled cheese, and I’m used to pain, and it’s totally going to be worth it.” And it is.

    Lately my stomach’s been acting up a little more than usual, so cheesy/fatty things don’t even sound good, because even normal food is bothering me just by its mere presence. In theory, though, I am totally with you on the moderation thing… sometimes you arbitrate between your needs and your intolerances.

  68. Oh, and, yeah, you should totally come on over to my neck of the woods.

    You know what the Ramones said “New York City really has it all…oh yeaah! oh yeah!”

  69. Brooke, during rag week (as him indoors endearingly calls it) I usually crave Doritos. Or anything salty and crunchy that isn’t celery. Usually whenever anyone I know craves anything at that time, it’s chocolate. They look at me weirdly when I own up to my dirty little secret….like, I’m female, I SHOULD crave chocolate, right? Well, the biggest chocoholic in my house is my husband, closely followed by the cat. (Yes, I know cats shouldn’t have people chocolate, but the cat doesn’t know that.)

    I’m never sure about the ‘reminds me of when I was little’ aspect of comfort food. For many years I really loathed anything mushy, anything semi-solid that I perceived as having the texture of baby food – like mashed potato, yogurt, thick soups. I still prefer the thicker Greek yogurt, and mashed potato has to be of a certain firmness. (I had some killer mashed potato with my very first taste of meatloaf in the US earlier this year. And lashings of gravy. Ohhhh. We Brits don’t know what we’re missing.)

  70. Brooke – me, too. I absolutely have to have high-iron foods (but I loves me a nice rare steak the best) that week. I will feel like absolute crap if I don’t – I’ve tried.

    And thanks, Kate and spacedcowgirl! I’m so flattered!

  71. I have always disliked the phrase “comfort food”. I don’t know why that is, but it probably has something to do with my childhood and my mother’s jacked up views on enjoying eating. Her view was basically…don’t. Feh. I do, however, like the fare that constitutes comfort food….soup is pretty much my favorite dish ever, especially if it has tons of green beans, corn, or other crunchy veggies in it. I could live on soup, seriously…I’ve seldom met a soup I didn’t like.

    I think that “every day” foods are…well…every food. Whatever I feel like eating every day is an every day food. If I like something I eat it. If I crave something I eat it. If I don’t feel like eating something, I don’t eat it. Pretty simple stuff.

    Christ on a cracker, why do they think fat people always eat donuts? I haven’t stuffed a donut into my face since…oh, probably last December or so? It’s been a long ass time. A donut sounds kind of good right now, actually.

    Christ on a donut…lulz.

  72. Why has it become fashionable to disparage good money, time, and resource management

    This has been my primary criteria for food buying and preparation for many years. I used to pride myself on feeding my family on a $1 menu. My son (now a chef) and I grocery shopped together for years with the goal of spending about less than $4 a day (including toilet paper, soap, etc.)

    Like many I moved away from white food, but I never cut out fats. I grew to love green vegetables as I never had before. Then I tried vegan because it takes so much water and natural resources to raise beef, chicken, pork, etc. Now I am more and more concerned with how dangerous (and devoid of nutrition) the vast majority of agri-business food has become. Gah

    All of these food realities have economic and health and sustainability implications. I find that my cravings for chips, dip and beer lately is bugging me on all 3 counts. But, as Kate has described in this post – the craving will pass.

    Cost of food is going to become something very important in the near future, even for those amongst us who are employed and making a good income. Today I read a good post I’d like to share by Sharon at <a href=”http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2007/11/how-to-eat-cheap.html”Casaubon’s Book.

  73. Emerald, come on over to my house and I’ll whip you up some mean meatloaf. Actually, I love the stuff, but the Hub doesn’t care for it much. And it really irritates me when I go through all the trouble of cooking and he doesn’t eat it… so I don’t make it all that often (to be honest, it’s been years). But my little monsters… uhm… I mean “children”…. like it. :D

  74. OK, I’m going to mention my current comfort food obsession, even knowing that all of you who don’t live in Montana or Michigan are going to think I’m talking about something strippers wear on their boobs:

    Pasties.

    (Hand-sized beef, carrot, onion and potato pies served with gravy. Or ketchup if you’re a kid.)

    Mmmmmmmm…

  75. Mmm, broccoli. Mr Oro and myself loves us some broccoli, in fact I would venture to say that along with brussels sprouts, is one of our favorite vegetables. How bad is it? Well, I once ate an entire head of steamed broccoli…

    Comfort food, for me, is good, nutritious food – usually what mom makes! Now I’m the mom-to-be and I’m making the comfort food, and since I love making stew and pie and, well I like to cook, is all I’m saying.

    Besides, with my new found sensitivity to soy (seriously, I looked into it after my last posting frenzy here last week, and soy has been having some severe effects on me that I’d never realized before because I don’t usually eat so much freakin’ processed food!) making proper meals has become even more important.

  76. Poor donuts. Champions of obesity’s war on the flesh.

    But not really. I don’t think many people view donuts as the ultimate snack, least of all the fat community. Because… well, they’re yummy, but not particularly good for you. Plus, they’re the kind of food that make you go “Hmm, that was good. But I want something savory now.”

    Society has this idea that fat people gorge on all the things they consider dessert foods, and forbidden snacks. We’d way all be dead from malnutrition if that was the case. It’s not like I get up in the morning and have a cake for breakfast, chased down by a milkshake. And you know, a bucket of fried chicken as a mid-morning snack.

    I know it’s been pointed out many a time that fat people haven’t been proven to eat more than those of “normal” weight, but it bares repeating. We’re not STUPID. I mean… if we want a donut, we have one, we don’t stress over it. But we understand that pastries and candy and pork rinds don’t fit in the damn nutrition chart.

    Cops, tho. They eat nothing but donuts. Tsk tsk. >_>

  77. Broccoli lovers: if you saute a head or so of broccoli (I usually put it in the microwave for about a minute first) in olive oil with a couple of chopped cloves of garlic and some chopped sundried tomatoes and then put it over pasta? You will be very happy. I know I’ve mentioned that dish before here but I cannot stop singing its praises.

    And whoever mentioned matzoh ball soup and the kugel, the glorious, glorious kugel: DAMN YOU TO HELL because damn that’s good, and damn that’s hard to get in New Zealand. Almost as hard to get as a huge comforting plate of Cuban-style black beans and rice with fried plaintains, which I know I have mentioned before and which I haven’t had for two years and for which a single tear has just escaped my eye.

  78. But we understand that pastries and candy and pork rinds don’t fit in the damn nutrition chart.

    Sure they fit. Right under ‘snacks and desserts.’

    And I think I’m going to have another spiced apple tartlet right about … now. Mmmmm.

  79. PS: Sticky Toffee Pudding is unbelievably easy to make.

    You also can’t eat very much of it at once because it’s so frickin’ rich. I mean, it pretty much is the ultimate in sweet/salty/buttery/betterthansex without being good chocolate…

  80. (yeah, I know, y’all are joking but . . . )

    The hell we are! I’m dead serious, personally.

    Me too!!

    And if Meowser’s gonna be there in May, May it shall be! Though I might also be there in Jan., and if I am, we could have a pre-con.

    Kate’s comfort foods didn’t resonate with me because she’s a GOY! That explains it.

    That made me LOL.

  81. Well, now, if y’all are going to NY and all…I’m gonna go in December (hopefully). I’ll sacrifice myself to go to the aforementioned restaurants for the sake of research, and report back.

    Culinary research. Yay! and Yum! :-D

  82. I am so damn embarrassed that I wrote in a tone that now reads so fucking prissy (concern trollish) and then accidentally posted it 3 times!!! Please delete and save me from the public humiliation – I am not a comment virgin, really.

    Shapelings, please forgive. Mia Culpa. (Though that link is a fascinating POV.)

    Time for a beer, chips and dip. 4 weeks and counting on that comfort obsession. Wish to hell I’d start craving something that would feed the brain.

  83. The only time I eat donuts lately is when I watch Twin Peaks, and then I absolutely must have them.

    Man I want some mac and cheese now. But there is neither mac, nor cheese, nor milk in the house. Curse you, Shapelings!

  84. And whoever mentioned matzoh ball soup and the kugel, the glorious, glorious kugel: DAMN YOU TO HELL because damn that’s good, and damn that’s hard to get in New Zealand.

    I will send you some if you send me some Jaffas.

    Except it probably doesn’t travel well, and my grandma currently lives in a chic little apartment in Manhattan without a proper kitchen.

    But still. Jaffas.

    May works for me. Kate, let me know if you’re there in January… it’s crazy-time for me at work but I could still take a short weekend jaunt.

  85. “Besides, I am one of those weird people who considers sushi to be “comfort food.” Yellowtail, ahhhh.”

    Right behind you on that one. I gotta have fish at least once a week or I start having massive concentration problems.

    Besides the fish, I occasionally crave my family’s recipe for stuffed cabbage and potato latkes. Peasant food has a lot of wonderful things going for it, primarily that it’s filling and easy to prepare. Growing up I ate a lot of Polish peasant dishes because my family didn’t have a lot of money, now those same foods are a great comfort to me as I struggle to make ends meet. There’s something great in the fact that simple foods can help you feel better about complex problems.

    Bah on the haters, so what if my goulash has fat in it, I dare you to be grouchy with a belly full of it!

  86. Oh wow, you’d really come to New York? That is just so cool, I can hardly even believe it. Of course I will get to Chicago sooner or later also, hopefully sooner.

    But yeah, two things I must have whenever I’m in New York because I will never be able to find them here come hell or high water:

    1) A New York-style egg roll. At least one. The entire West Coast Chinese restaurant establishment does not know how to make an egg roll, as far as I am concerned (I have lived in LA, SF, Bakersfield, and Seattle in addition to Portland, so I know, okay?). I like the Thai restaurant egg rolls, generally, but they’re different, more like spring rolls. To this New Yorker, though, the Chinese egg rolls Out Here just don’t cut the hot mustard. If I can ever learn how to make them for real, I am so buying a Fry Daddy.

    2) Coal oven pizza. Arturo’s, John’s, Grimaldi’s, wherever. I don’t care which one. But coal pizza ovens are evidently illegal out here, and you pretty much have to jump through flaming hoops to build one anywhere. (Grimaldi’s has managed to open new locations in Arizona, Nevada and Texas, but I know they want to expand even more than that.) So I treasure the stuff whenever I can get it. There’s just nothing like it.

  87. What, no buffalo chicken? I know it’s close to That Time when I start craving chicken, hot sauce and blue cheese dressing…mmmm…I tend to like my comfort foods kinda spicy. Oh, and nothing beats a good, strong ginger beer…

  88. Oh man, if y’all go to NYC in May, there’s no conceivable way I could join you (unless you find a literary conference I could go to that weekend…)

  89. That whole “fatties eat doughnuts” thing makes me INSANE…I NEVER eat doughnuts; they give me heartburn. My skinny mother is a doughnut-eating fiend, but whenever she brings them over, she winds up having to eat them all.

    The whole subject of teh fatties and comfort foods makes me think about all those theories that we fatties are somehow emotionally fucked, that our lives are so miserable that we have to take “comfort” in excess quantities of “fattening” food, which is, of course, obviously why we get/stay fat. It frustrates me. I don’t HAVE any comfort foods, and I don’t find “comfort” in eating, except as it boosts my flagging energy or stops my tummy from growling and gurgling uncomfortably. If food tastes so good that it makes me joyous, then I’m more likely to associate it with sensualistic pleasure than “comfort.” Like a “flavour-gasm.”

    kate, your “comfort food represents Mommy” comment made me realize why I couldn’t think of anything I consider comfort foods: my mama hates cooking, and suffered it greatly during her “Suzy Homemaker” (her words) days! If I had to go back to my childhood, I’d probably say Shake ‘n’ Bake chicken legs or Campbell’s tomato soup with grilled cheese represent comfort foods to me. ;)

  90. If I had to go back to my childhood, I’d probably say Shake ‘n’ Bake chicken legs or Campbell’s tomato soup with grilled cheese represent comfort foods to me. ;)

    Hey, I almost mentioned that for grilled cheese to be true comfort food, it must be served with Campbell’s tomato soup!

    I loooooved Campbell’s soup — especially tomato and chicken noodle — when I was a little kid, like under 6. It’s the only thing I can remember being really into at that time, other than PBJs. And even though my mother made excellent homemade soup (which I know because she would say, “DAMN, I make good soup!” at the dinner table every time she did — I come by my galloping humility, not to mention my potty mouth, honestly), I preferred Campbell’s to hers for a long time. This did not please her.

    I am so totes serious about NYC, and May sounds great, except for Sweet Machine’s absence. (Meowser, I’d love to get to PDX someday, too, but I have no idea when that might be.) I’ll do a Shapely Con post at some point and we can all coordinate.

  91. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Nicole’s horseradish meatloaf is in my oven as we speak. I changed it up a little, which might have been stupid of me, because I had horseradish mustard in the house, and since the recipe calls for both horseradish and mustard, I just used that. We’ll see how it turns out.

  92. I couldn’t find any Ben & Jerry’s Creme Brulee, so I tried Hagen Dazs. It’s good, it reminds me a lot of Dulche de Leche. The caramelized sugar is sweet, but there’s not a ton of it. That’s actually why I tend to prefer Hagen Dazs to B&J, because they don’t add huge chucks of extras, they keep it subtle so it just enhances the taste of the ice cream. The ice cream has a nice rich vanilla taste, they call it “custard” but what can I say, it tastes like vanilla to me.

    Not as good as STP, but that stuff is a pint full of orgasm!

  93. Meatloaf update: it was reeeeeally good meatloaf (and one of the reasons the recipe appealed to me is ’cause I’m not a huge meatloaf fan, and Nicole says she wasn’t either, before this one). However, with my changes, it just tasted like really good meatloaf, not horseradish meatloaf. Despite the horseradish in the mustard, Al was shocked (and a little bummed out) when I told him it was supposed to be horseradishy. Me too.

    The sauce, which she raves about, was also too sweet for my tastes — total shocker coming from me, I know. Again, the lack of pure horseradish is certainly a factor there, but even with the real thing, I’d probably cut down on the brown sugar, if not eliminate it entirely. (I made a german potato salad recipe a while back that got unanimous raves on the website it came from, but it was so sweet I could barely eat it. Someday, I will learn that when I say I’m not that much of a sweet person, I really mean I’m not that much of a sweet person.) The sauce is mostly ketchup, so there’s plenty of sugar in it already. I also spent an ungodly amount to get organic ketchup with real sugar instead of HFCS — that could be a factor, too, I suppose.

    Overall, a definite thumbs-up, and I’ll be making it again. Literally the best meatloaf I’ve ever had, despite the flaws — but I was bummed that the sauce wasn’t as awesome as promised, to my taste.

  94. My husband bought me a pint of the B&J Creme Brulee (because it is one of my favorite desserts) and I couldn’t take more than two bites. I found it to be sickeningly sweet.

    As for comfort food: hell yeah on pork chops and minute rice covered in condensed cream of shroom soup. With lots of garlic salt. And I find that when I’m getting sick I jones seriously for Indian food: tandoori, naan, dal, tikka masala, raita, and at least two cups of homemade chai (not the sickeningly sweet stuff you can get at, say, Starbucks). Mmm, Indian food. Also? Chicken and dumplings stew. Colcannon–cabbage fried in bacon then folded into mashed tatoes with butter (that’s how I learnt it). Velveeta Shells n’ Cheese. Lamb stew. Matzo ball soup. Barbecue sauce on just about any type of meat.

    Hungry? Me? Why do you ask?

    PS–I’m a one-donut wonder. :)

  95. I think you’ll appreciate big chunks of Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. It certainly explains how fat came to be vilified.

    I eat more fat now than I ever did, since I’m of an age where my entire life has been during the reign anti-fat conventional wisdom. It’s actually a little horrifying to me, cooking things that aren’t absolutely as low-fat as possible (although they taste better, typically, even if the clean-up can be a little gag-worthy). Interestingly I eat less than ever, too, in terms of sheer volume, and not out of restricting…I just get to the point where I want to stop sooner, and rarely have that “I just ate, but something’s missing” feeling.

    I don’t know if I really think of anything in comfort food terms. There was a time when good bread with plenty of butter seemed pretty comforting, but I seem to have lost my taste for it. Actually I’ve lost my taste for a lot of the random things I used to crave when I felt beaten-up, since I’ve been eating more fat on a daily basis. Hmmm.

  96. I went to a parent-tot potluck tonight, and this morning (waaaaaay before reading this post) at around 6:30 a.m. I made a canned salmon-pea-corkscrew pasta and homemade white sauce casserole (like a tuna casserole). I put panko breadcrumbs and smoked paprika on top. Husband baked for 30 min. at 375 degrees. And when I took a bite, it tasted almost exactly like a food my mom used to make for me when my dad wasn’t going to be home for dinner — creamed tuna on toast. She would open a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of tuna, toss in some frozen peas, and serve it on toast with a few sprinkles of paprika. When this tasted the same to me, it was such a deep food memory.
    I love Matzo Ball soup but it’s not entirely comfort food for me because I’m usually tired of it by the time I’m done making it.
    My husband’s dal with brown rice is serious comfort food.
    Since we hardly ever eat white bread, some sourdough toast with sharp cheddar cheese is a very serious treat.
    I can’t ever make scrambled eggs the way my mom did. They never taste the same. My mom’s scrambled eggs with buttered sourdough toast — that is comfort food.

  97. Thanks for posting about the Mac n Cheese restaurant. I live in NYC so right now it is taking all my strength not to run outside, hop on the train, and go there in the middle of the night, in my pajamas!

  98. “That is what intuitive eating is all about. You don’t need to tell your body what it must and mustn’t eat — if you let it be, it will tell you.”

    Echoes of A.S. Neill and radical unschooling. :) It’s why I don’t manage my kids’ diets.

    I’ve been moving toward FA and psychological health for some time now, but it’s only recently that I let get of the bad food/good food dichotomy and started paying attention to eating in a way I enjoy and that makes me feel good, rather than the way I’m “supposed to”, with the attendant dysfunctional eating behaviors. It’s been so incredibly amazing to see my body regulate itself for optimal psychological and physical health.

    I had comfort food tonight — cheese tortellini with pesto and buttered steamed carrots. Mmmmmm.

  99. Past six months is nothing, breastfeeding-wise. But my dad’s highschool girlfriend had her five year old son, standing next to her, hands on hips while he and his infant brother both breastfed. That’s just weird. And I can’t imagine anyone in a public situation not being profoundly freaked out.

    Imagine it, because you’re in the company of at least one person who is not even slightly freaked about about a five-year-old breastfeeding, let alone profoundly freaked out.

    Your understandings are highly culturally-specific, and would be considered bizarre in some places in the world. As primates, our “natural” weaning age (near enough as can be figured) would lie somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years of age. Somewhere in primary school is also the typical age for lactose intolerance to kick in, for the majority of the world’s population.

    You’d be fairly hard pressed to find a Western educated paediatrician who would be perfectly happy with a preschool aged child not having any dairy products whatsoever (that’s debatable in itself as a nutritional factoid, but I’m not particularly interested in debating that, and I think my statement holds true as written) – why are we as a society insisting that a cow’s milk is an ESSENTIAL food group for preschoolers, but that human milk is completely inappropriate, skeevy, and weird?

    I would say that the vast majority of Western five year olds who breastfeed never do so in public. Firstly because of the reactions they get, and secondly because most kids that age feed once or twice a day (bedtime, and possibly at wakeup time). The old saw about hippy mothers going up to school to feed their kids at recess is a red herring. Maybe it has happened before, but in general, breastfeeding kids that age don’t typically feed during the day absent extenuating circumstances (illness, etc). Ultimately, however, that timing is between the mother and the child to negotiate, and it’s none of your business.

    I’m not saying that all mothers should be compelled to practice child-led weaning. What I am saying is that child-led weaning is an entirely normal thing to do, that five is not a ridiculous outlier age for a child to breastfeed if let to choose his or her time of weaning, and that if you do feel profoundly freaked out about it because of your own upbringing and issues, I hope you at least keep it to yourself. This blog is typically about not hassling people or looking down on them based on their food choices or their size – no matter where they fall on the curve. This is just another example.

    It would be nice if our society at least fully and wholeheartedly supported mothers who wish to follow the World Health Organisation breastfeeding guidelines (breastfeeding to at least two years old, and thereafter for as long as mother and child wish.) Breastfeeding isn’t just “for babies”.

  100. I associate comfort food with comfort. At times I want to emotionally eat, but usually comfort food cravings arise when my body is calling out for nurturing, gentleness, and care. Mostly if I’m stressed or feeling sick. I don’t mind wanting comfort food. I love that eating warm vegetable soup makes me feel good at a deeper level than whatever health benefits it might have. It is WARM, and easy to digest, and reminds me of my mom!
    my main comfort foods
    -vegetable soup
    -avocado’s
    -coconut milk ice cream
    -vegan chocolate chip cookies

    They’re foods that I just love either from childhood or that I discovered recently that make me feel good. Sometimes I save them for special occasions (like the cookies cuz they make me feel a bit funny), but other times I eat them every night.

    I try to look to at what in me is needing to be taken care of, and do that too…since I’m usually craving the “comfort” food for a reason.

  101. “not suitable for company”
    Yup, that would pretty much cover some of my favorite childhood treats. (At least as far as other kids were concerned.)
    Spinach soufflé.
    Dried seaweed.
    Frozen calf’s liver thawed in whole milk then covered in onion and cooked to loveliness.
    Chicken Hearts! I Love chicken hearts! (They have almost precisely the same taste as a good calf’s liver without the vaguely disturbing texture and in the ’80s could be bought by themselves by the pound without even a hint of gizzard.)

    Actually, now that I think about it all my comfort foods from childhood are the things my mom bought/cooked JUST-FOR-ME! because of my anemia. Oh! and Chocolate! I must not forget the Chocolate. Red Bean paste rocks too.

  102. Great timing on this post as I’ve been thinking about the same thing lately. :)

    I am having a shitty time of things, right now. Major family troubles, a terminally ill grandfather, and health problems on top of it all. So, when I DO feel like eating (which is increasingly rare due to my health woes), I crave comfort food.

    Part of me still associates that label with ‘bad’ foods, but since I tried to stop labelling food with moral judgements, I am seeing comfort food as something that I just enjoy absolutely, 100% at the moment I eat it.

    Like, last week. I was having a good health day for a change, and I saw some sausages at the supermarket. I can rarely eat sausages because most contain wheat and I have coeliacs disease, but these beauties were guaranteed gluten free. They were stuffed with organic pork, bramley apples, and cider. Yum.

    I had them with red cabbage (marinated in GF balsamic vinegar and chopped apple) and the most decadent mashed potatoes (made with cream and cheese and pure deliciousness).

    I savoured every mouthful. What a wonderful meal! And no moral judgements because, really, that is JUST what I wanted and I enjoyed it immensely.

    And maybe it was just what I needed too; a big dose of protein and fat and carbs, because a few days after that, my health problems flared up and, right now, I’m finding it hard to eat more than soup and (GF) toast. Was my body stocking up whilst it could? Perhaps.

    Either way, at least I can savour the memory. ;)

  103. I hated the B&J Creme Brulee ice cream – the sugar throughout gave it the texture of sand. Which is really not something I want in my ice cream!

    Also, I feel like a snob, but one of my favorite comfort foods is my dad’s paella or arroz con pollo. Of course, that’s probably balanced out by meatloaf, Hoppin’ John (a stew of black-eyed peas), mac and cheese, hamburger casserole… oh god, now I’m starving and I have nothing to cook with. Argh!

  104. Mama Mia! I just figured out… I will eat breads only with comfort food. Dunno why but I kinda like the texture of breads with pasta. Gives ita necessary roughness in my palette. Kinda like crackers ya…Heh, just figured it out. I’m not much for regular cornbread with chicken pot pie. I’m talkin ’bout crunchy pita with spaghetti, and sourdough bread with ice cream. Mmmmmm. Have you tried that. Scrumptious. Ooo and have you tried to cook beef casserole with a cup of stuffing cooked with apples and a hint of beer? It’s Suh-weeet!

  105. Thank you. I feel that appreciation is the ingredient missing from most western diets. With all of our judgements about good food and bad food we mess up that intuitive body knowing you speak of. Appreciated food just has to be good.

  106. Nuckingfuts, where are you in the UK? I’m in London and you can get Krispy Kremes at most Tesco’s down here.

    Hee hee… I remember when they opened the first Krispy Kreme in the UK at Harrod’s. I teach English as a foreign language and one of my students worked there. She told me that about 95% of the customers were American. And you bet your ass this American fatty was lined up waiting for a chocolate donut with the rest of ‘em!

  107. It’s a great time of the year for it, but my favorite comfort food is warm Gingerbread.

    Also, homemade crab and corn chowder.

    *drools*

  108. OMG, totally forgot about arroz con pollo! My great-aunt is Puerto Rican and only she makes it the way it’s supposed to be made (in my mind and to my taste buds, that is).

  109. I also love arroz con pollo.
    And I completely concur that the mom-child pair is best able to determine when weaning happens (when either one is ready to stop, that’s when it’s time to consider it).
    After my child stopped nursing (just under 2), I missed having it as a way to soothe my little one. I don’t know if my little one will be an only, but I look forward to nursing again if it works out to do so, for as long as it makes sense for me and little one to do so.

  110. Lauredhel,

    Thank you so much for writing about extending breastfeeding. It shocks me to no end how otherwise highly conscious and progressive people will pull out the example of a child breastfeeding and say, “Well, of course *that’s* disgusting.” As if it were unnatural, and we weren’t in a country where the vast majority of babies are breastfed for the blink of an eye. I really wish we had that “problem” in this country, but instead, we live in a country where breastfeeding is constantly looked down upon and deningrated in everyday life (godforbid we see BOOB in non-sexual contexts! And sexualize it anyway!). Yea for comfort-feeding for toddlers!

  111. I do like to tell the story of when I had a female outpatient procedure which resulted in (not surprisingly) excess bleeding for a while. I had spanakopita every day for lunch that week, and on Friday night I picked up some chicken livers on the way home to make for dinner.

    After all of which, I thought, hey, iron.

    :)

    A lot of overeating numbs out the sense of what the craving is all about. Sometimes, what my body craves is just not to overeat. I’m not always able to listen to that one. But if I can eat less for a few days, my sensitivity to the messages of cravings can be more astute.

  112. Lauredhel: “why are we as a society insisting that a cow’s milk is an ESSENTIAL food group for preschoolers, but that human milk is completely inappropriate, skeevy, and weird?”

    I’d say it’s because we have so completely sexualized the female breast. Breasts aren’t for FEEDING, they’re for LOOKING AT. Therefore, we are supposed to wean our children as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’s automatically assumed to be a weird sex thing.

    ————–

    My comfort foods:
    -Warm chocolate pudding (bonus points if served in a coffee mug)- associated with curling up after school with my mom and watching the Brady Bunch. My taste in television has since improved, but I still loves me the warm chocolate pudding.
    -Shells and Velveeta with peas mixed in. Again, my mommy used to make this all the time. And to this day, I get excited if the peas find their way inside the shells.
    -Biscuits and gravy- reminds me of Grandma
    - Pigs in a Blanket- another childhood favorite (preferably made with whomp biscuits)
    -Bagels and cream cheese- this is a more recent thing, associated with Sunday morning bonding with my Dad at the local bagel shop.

    Commonalities- all high fat, all associated with family quality time, and all pretty rare for me to come across these days. Thing is, these are not the only high-fat things I ever ate with my family that I rarely eat nowadays. So the question is, what made these comfort foods over Grandma’s waffles, Dad’s navy-bean soup, or mom’s potpie?

  113. I got less than a quarter of the way through these comments before I had to have some peanut butter toast. And Earl Grey. Yum.

  114. I, of course, had to go out and buy Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream. It was good, but too sweet to become a favorite. (I ate a bunch of it anyway, though, and had surprisingly little resulting stomach trouble.)

  115. Lauredhel, I’ll refrain from expressing my personal opinions on maximum breastfeeding age if everyone else will refrain from expressing their personal opinions on what’s an appropriate minimum time frame.

    I don’t actually care how long other women choose to bf, and if they want to do it in public, so be it – it’s just a boob, I don’t mind.

    But if I had fed Bacon for TWO YEARS? Our house would have been miserable – she was having PMS with me because of the hormones in my milk at four MONTHS post-partum, and we gave up at six months. I didn’t like bfing, she didn’t like not being able to look around while she ate, and nobody liked 7-10 days of screaming baby.

    Or the short version: I totally agree with you. Breastfeeding should be up to mothers and children. No one else has a vote in that decision.

  116. Yep, baconsmum, note my wording, which was deliberate: “It would be nice if our society at least fully and wholeheartedly supported mothers who wish to follow the World Health Organisation breastfeeding guidelines”.

  117. lauredhel – we had a TV documentary over here about mothers who breastfeed older kids. Most of them three or four year olds. One, however, was nine, and would still come to nurse briefly when she got home. Some people would think that that begs the question of how old is “too old”, although I seem to recall reading that some tribes – the Inuit, or that area? – used to nurse till adolescence, but don’t know if that was actually the case. The thing that struck me was that in a society like ours that thinks breastfeeding at two is odd, featuring that child on TV would be setting her up to be teased something awful at school.

  118. The one thing I have actually liked about being pregnant thus far is the fact that intuitive eating is really easy (and something I plan to stick with afterward). I know what will make me sick and what will make me feel good, and usually in what amounts, and all I have to do is go get it.

    As far as the breastfeeding thing, I wish people would quit with the judgment on when kids should be weaned. And I HATE that the comment heard a lot of times is, “Well, the kid is three and that’s old enough to eat ‘real’ food so this is all about the comfort of the mother.” First of all, so what if the mother finds it comforting to breastfeed her kid? As long as the kid’s not trying desperately to pull away and not breastfeed, why is it bad that a mother might enjoy it? I think part of it is the whole “breasts are objects to be enjoyed sexually by dudes” and part of it is the whole fear of over-mothering. I’m totally for peoples’ right to breastfeed when and where they need to, as long as they need to, and I’m not even going to be doing it (though I wish many times that lactivists would be as understanding of me as I am of them–not you, lauredhel…I just come across a lot of flak in everyday life).

    Oh, I wish my grandma was still around. I have never mastered her meatloaf, even though the recipe comes from the back of an onion soup mix. But something about the bread crumbs she used, the way she mixed it defies me! Most meatloaf is odious to me, all mushy :P But my grandma turned them into a batch of mini-loaves so they’d get all crusty and delicious on the outside. Oh, man.

    I’ve never been much for doughnuts, but when we get them I love it because I can get an apple turnover! Mmm, mini apple pies. My husband is addicted to Chocodiles, which are chocolate-covered Twinkies he discovered on a trip to L.A. and which they only produce on the west coast. I found a website that makes, sells, and ships them fresh and he’s always over the moon whenever I order some for him. :)

  119. I am so glad to see that I’m not the only one who finds Ben & Jerry’s too sweet these days. Ever since they sold it, imo, the quality’s gone downhill…

    …other comfort foods that I haven’t seen listed:

    chicken soup!
    fried potatoes and onions

    and a ‘generic’ Middle Eastern dish featuring sliced or chopped eggplants (first fried in olive oil) layered with raw onion and raw tomato, seasoned with salt and pepper, with a cup of olive oil poured over the top and then cooked very slowly at very low temperature. After a few hours, serve hot or lukewarm or cold. I’m not supposed to eat eggplant or tomato frequently, but I gotta make this once a month – there’s something in me that absolutely craves it, heart palpitations be damned!!

  120. Orodemniades- I made something very similar to the Middle Eastern dish you describe and it was the best thing I have ever cooked. But I can’t make it again because I have no proper kitchen at the moment. Grr.

  121. Bangers and mash and gravy. Oh yum. And broccoli baked with cheese. And cheesy lasagne. And any form of fresh tomatoes + bread: tomato sandwich, bruschetta with basil and garlic, tomato and bread salad, with plenty of salt and pepper, oh god it’s good. I have loved tomatoes very much since a small child. And now and then, I get a craving for a delicious hamburger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, fried egg and tomato sauce. Which I satisfy by finding the nearest old-fashioned takeaway.

    Also, pretty much anything out of a Nigella Lawson cookbook becomes instantly part of the comfort food repertoire. Her meatloaf with the Worcestershire sauce is beautiful. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any other TV chef or cook quite so in love with food. Grilled pineapple on a stick with chocolate sauce. Lemon cream linguini.

  122. Also for optimum meatloaf experience, the mixture has to be smooshed up with your hands. Stirring it with forks or spoons just doesn’t get the meat texture right.

  123. #
    kateharding, on November 9th, 2007 at 9:12 pm Said:

    I might need to start another photo project just of fat vegans.

    i’m so into it! though i think last time i weighed myself i fell into the ‘normal’ range, which is so incredibly weird, but i totally don’t fit the skinny vegan stereotype, my thighs still flap in the breeze and whatnot. whatever yo, vegan cookies for the win.

    anyway, my comfort foods tend to fluctuate, depending on where i am, why i need comfort, and what my body’s asking for at the moment. right now it’s ginger kombucha, some ricemilk chocolate, and a plain old veggie sandwich. after i got my wrist tattoo touched up (aka most painful experience ever), i had a fauxbeef-veggie stirfry thing and the most amazing chocolate-caramel cake creation ever from the vegan thai place down the street. when i got hopelessly lost trying to visit a friend a few cities away and ended up walking miles in the wrong direction, i turned around and got some phenomenal sweet and sour fried ‘chicken’ and ate it under a tree. toast with earth balance and nutritional yeast is a staple, as is apples and peanut butter, bagels and hummus, and my never ending quest for perfect falafel.

    perhaps ironically, veganism has actually really helped me eat more intuitively/feel less ‘guilty’ anout eating what i actually want to and feel good about…i can’t really explain it well without sounding silly, but figured it was worth mentioning, just cos veganism gets a bad rap sometimes for being about ‘purity’ or ‘cos it’ll keep you thin’ and all that fucked up stuff

  124. Nicole!!! I agree, pasties are one of the ultimate comfort foods. For them to taste right to me they have to have both beef and pork, and rutabaga along with the usual potato and carrot and onion. Of course this is because that’s how my grandma made them. Next weekend we are doing a U.P./Scandinavian-American-type football tailgate, which we do about once a year, sort of for my dad (he’s a very picky eater and puts up with a lot of food he doesn’t really care for over the rest of the football season, therefore we figure he can have pasties and pickled herring and saffron buns once a year). :) I can’t wait. We stockpile pasties from one of our favorite restaurants when we go up north and eat them from time to time throughout the year, so I have some perfectly nice ones in the freezer already–but my grandma’s recipe is the best.

    We stopped at a local bakery on the way to my in-laws on Saturday and I got 2 lovely plain cake donuts (no glaze–a pox on glazed cake donuts IMO; though cinnamon sugar is OK but not necessary) to have with my coffee. I think I could eat this breakfast every day for a very long time without getting tired of it. Yummy.

  125. Grilled cheese and tomato soup on a rainy day is the ultimate comfort food combo for me. But there are also potato pancakes (latkes), which I made for brunch yesterday. I cooked them in the bacon drippings and served them with sour cream — to my whole family, because that’s how much I care. Stew is a comfort food, especially if my husband makes it. Spinach pie (with tons of eggs and plenty of tofu) is a comfort food, despite my having made it up in college. I think the fact that it is my sons’ favorite dinner has something to do with that. A big salad with tons of crazy stuff in it (exotic veggies or avacado or cheese or bacon or whatever happens to be in the fridge at the moment) made in a giant bowl is comfort food for my husband and I . We don’t even get plates or bowls. We each grab a fork and dig in and it doesn’t get to be a tug of war until the very end.

    I think that equating comfort food with “bad” food is a travesty. I may have had my issues with emotional eating, but emotionless eating doesn’t seem like a good idea, either….

  126. My mom came over yesterday to watch football (she says she can’t scream at the tv by herself) and brought dinner – pork with sauerkraut, applesauce, sweet potatoes, broccoli rabe, roasted garlic, pinapple – and pizza as a “snack.”

    This particular pizza place hasn’t changed the recipe since I was a kid, they don’t deliver and it’s just exactly what I want every once in a while. It feels like home and it was so nice to have that as an acceptable food from my mom, like “I’ll be there at 1 and we’re probably not having dinner until 5ish, so pizza would be nice so we’re not crabby and deprived and we can enjoy it together.”

    Love you, mom.

    Other comfort foods:

    Pasta with Sunday gravy
    Soft shell crabs
    Meatloaf
    Kielbasa and sauerkraut
    Nilla wafers and jello

    When I’m sick all I can ever think of is Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and Gatorade. It’s like my body wants as much salt as it can possibly ingest in a short period of time.

    But knowing that I can get totally reliable food, food where I know what it tastes like and I know it’s available, food with no surprises — that’s very comforting to me.

    This is emphatically the most important thing to me when it comes to food. I have severe nut/soy allergies and I tend to get a little panicky when presented with something unfamilliar, to the point of occasionally leaving restaurants in tears, whether from lack of information from or confidence in the staff or my own paranoia. Comfort is about a lack of stress from food, even if that sometimes makes it a little boring by other peoples’ standards.

  127. Comfort is about a lack of stress from food, even if that sometimes makes it a little boring by other peoples’ standards.

    So right! And I’m glad I’m not alone in occasionally being driven to tears by restaurants. I don’t have a good reason like an allergy, though.

  128. Being in a stressful situation that makes you uncomfortable and unhappy is reason enough. No health reasons are required :)

  129. Has anyone said potato latkes? I love me some latkes, and it’s almost Hanukkah – the one night when even my mom’s diet flies out the window and we can get to eating some yummy fried potato pancakes. (Tradition holds that you also fry other stuff, including the dreaded doughnuts, but that would be too much for my family. Just getting some fried carbs without a side serving of guilt is a nice treat, though!)

  130. I know I’m late here, but this is a wonderful thread. I just moved to the midwest and I’m feeling in need of some comfort. My mom used to make butternut squash with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon – so good!! I should make some tonight.

    Also, the poster who was tearing up over rice and beans reminded me of another time I had just moved. I moved to the UK for school and was terribly homesick for the first month. I streached my student budget to get fresh lettuce and balsamic vinegar. That night I ate a salad that made me cry because it tasted like I was home in California.

  131. See, here’s the funny thing. I’m vegan, so all those “bad” diet unfriendly foods most folks flap and wail about are already not included in my diet. Does that mean I do not have “traditional” comfort foods?
    Oh, heck no! ;)

    I eat things like seitan stroganoff with soy sour cream (YUMMMM) and seitan “beef” stew with lots of starchy veggies and vegan gravy (topped with sweet peas!). They are so much better for me, nutrition-wise, then the recipes of my mum’s that I’m basing them off. But, I STILL feel “bad” and “naughty” when I eat them. Even when they are organic, vegan, and full of whole grains. The hell?

    With that social programming (and a skinny, diet obsessed mom!), you just can’t win. But I’m getting better and felt about 10% less guilt the last time I heaped my plate with seitan, mushrooms, onions, and soy sour cream sauce over whole wheat noodles. And that’s a step in the right direction. :)

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