Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Chocolate Galas not withstanding, sometimes we just need a little Comfort Food. While the exact types and recipes can vary from sweet to salty, savory to spice, I think it’s probably more the memory or emotion a particular food evokes that is most meaningful.

For instance, back in the Dark Ages after I attended the morning session of kindergarten (yes, it was just half days back then!), Mother would often fix a grilled cheese sandwich for my lunch. White bread, with just enough butter to brown the bread, but not enough to make it soggy, American or Velveeta cheese, all nicely toasted in a cast-iron skillet.  Mmmm! This is still one of my favorite sandwiches, especially when paired with tomato or chicken noodle soup. Not the chicken soup from a can, mind you, but the Lipton kind from the packet with the little skinny noodles. Isn’t it funny to be so picky about such a simple thing as chicken noodle soup? Stir up a beaten egg with a little salt and pepper and add enough flour to make a thick paste, then drop tiny dumplings from the tip of a teaspoon into the simmering broth . . . oh my. That’s comfort food.

Another basic meal on the list is poached eggs on toast. Last weekend, while visiting Daddy, we had this for breakfast on Sunday. I told him how I recalled this as being one of the things Mother might make for me if I had to stay home from school due to sickness. Was it the protein she thought I needed?  The comparable blandness that would go easy on my stomach? The soft texture of the damp toast and the smooth egg that wouldn’t irritate a sore throat? The answer eludes me, but the memory remains, just like the times Dad would warm up milk in a pan on the stove and drizzle in some honey, stirring until it dissolved, and serve it in steaming mugs. That, too, was comfort food.

Custard pie and homemade ice cream make me think of my Grandpa Charlie and his siblings. Chinese food reminds me of my sister and her husband, because the first time I met him (before they were even engaged!) he took us to an excellent Chinese buffet for lunch in Tulsa. Chicken mole, first prepared for me by my dear sister-in-law, has become a favorite, and I never order it without thinking of her and my brother. And how can I possibly look at barbeque beef brisket without a fond remembrance of my Uncle Stan and cousin Dan, or see smoked salmon and not call to mind cousin Greg?

So, now it’s your turn. Leave a comment, if you will, and share your favorite comfort food, and why.  Then, get comfortable!

Comments

  1. Robert Howell says:

    Fresh Fried crappie, corn on the cob, tomatoes from the garden, fried taters. After fishing the day away with my Grandpa Mack down at the lake. The smell of the food and the old cabin and the wiper wills starting to sing just as the sun sets. Yep. Grandpa and fishing and the lake. Good times, good memories.

  2. My wife’s (Janice) biscuits are an ‘I love you’ food that curlsmy toes. No matter what, I know she cares.
    When back in France the ‘kid’ food flan gives me an ‘it’s all ok feeling.

  3. white owl says:

    ok, now I know I need to make biscuits more often!

    What I was going to type was “homemade ice cream, hands down”. My favorite child hood memory involves any time we had homemade ice cream. I would have to eat one bowl just plain vanilla (lots of vanilla) right out of the canister, and then one more bowl with Hershey syrup on it. My favorite summer was the one we cranked ice cream seven times. Don’t know the year, but remember seven times of cranking the ice cream! I also remember the May ice cream socials, and especially the time all of us “J” cousins pretended that we were running an ice cream cafe – one of my favorite memories!

    Hand in hand with ice cream, have to mention chocolate sheet cake. That’s my all time favorite cake, and serve it on a blue willow plate with home made ice cream, and I’m in hog heaven.

  4. Nice memories! I can’t narrow it down to just one, so here goes! Grandpa loved it when I’d come to spend a week in the summer because Grandma would make homemade onion rings. He claimed he had to wait all year for them! Ice cream suppers with the May clan top my list as well. All those temptations flavors lined up along the sidewalk…pure Heaven. Mom’s mom made the most luscious creamy macaroni and cheese. I’ve watched her make it a million times and have the recipe but still can’t duplicate it. My mom’s roast and fried chicken were the best right along with Dad’s Ham What Am! Having horrible cooks in the family might have allowed me to be thinner but not nearly as happy!

  5. Catherine Lemasters says:

    Love all the memories everyone has shared!
    Guess “hog slop” would top our comfort food list: crumble the biscuits, bacon, eggs
    and top it with white gravy! Another hit is Frances Logan
    Meatloaf straight out of the Middletown Cookbook!
    Can’t forget my Mom’s Burnt Caramel Cake! Now I wonder what
    our kids remember????

    • white owl says:

      I have that cookbook! I had to go get it off the shelf and see what was in her meatloaf. Those ingredients are going on my shopping list this weekend!

    • Never actually called it Hog Slop, but I often put scrambled eggs on top of split biscuits before spooning the sausage gravy over it all. Scrumptious. And thanks so much for the cookbook!

  6. My all time best comfort food since early childhood would be REAL mashed potatoes. Hands down! Often my dad called me his “little potato head”. 🙂 In the scheme of things, we usually had those potatoes with the expected accompaniments: roast beef or chicken, and of course: GRAVY. I guess the package deal said ‘things are gonna be okay’ to me then and just the potatoes alone do the same today.

    However I am drooling over all the delicacies mentioned in your essay and in these comments. And, realize now that May events were a true glimpse of heaven and that those in attendance were blessed at each one!

    May I share perhaps the least likely treasured food memory you may have reported:

    Fish Head under Porcelain

    I feel certain it was a one time event in the history of all mankind. But, I was there; goodness I WAS the recipient. To this day, the memory of that meal floods me with a warm comfort because the ‘giver’ of that dish always and only ever bestowed good things for my benefit. This will not be a dish that I will ever need to pursue again…that one serving will bless me all of my days.

    Yes, blessings and treasures in life on ‘this side’ are clothed with the tastings and conversations set around the table of fellowship, love and encouragement. I guess this is how our comfort foods become our comfort foods for life!

    • Jayne, I recall that meal at Luigi’s restaurant in Des Peres. It seems like you ordered trout, but the menu failed to mention they’d be serving it intact! The lid came off the plate and with a horrified look you froze, then in a strained voice said “MOM . . . it’s LOOKING at me!” Mother quickly reached over with her knife and fork, separated the head from the rest of the fish, scooted it over onto a bread plate, and whisked it over to Janice, who lifted the plate to a passing busboy. “We don’t want this” she told him, and he took it away. While I have no idea what any of the rest of us ordered that day, I’ll never forget what you got. Thanks for reminding me of a unique episode, which points out perfectly how Mother could turn Discomfort into Comfort with expeditious action. And thanks for reading!

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