There is a Slow Food pot luck dinner this weekend themed ‘comfort food’ and I have been trying to work out what to cook. It has prompted me to think a lot about what defines comfort food, and what my comfort foods are. It is also timely because I am also starting to think about my trip home for Christmas and the foods on my wish list, while I am there.
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines comfort food as “food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal”. According to Wikipedia Comfort food is typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. Many people turn to comfort food for familiarity, emotional security, or as a special reward. The reasons a dish becomes a comfort food are diverse but often include pleasant associations of childhood.
Here is my burgeoning list of comfort foods:
Toast – probably the most commonly eaten food when I was at boarding school, partly due to availability (we were given free loaves of bread by the dining hall), but as something you can eat when you are sick, for breakfast, for a late night snack and with tea I think it definitely classes as a comfort food. Crumpets too, fit into the same category.
All sorts of soups and beef stew and steak and kidney pie. Piping hot, wintry, filling, stick to the ribs sort of food.
Toasted cheddar cheese sandwiches made in a Breville sandwich toaster (another boarding school throw-back)
Soft boiled eggs with marmite soldiers. A childhood breakfast that I still enjoy.
Porridge, my Mum’s baked rice pudding, custard and other hot milky foods.
Dishes with mashed potatoes such as shepherds pie or fish pie. Childhood favorites that I often crave.
My dad’s homemade bread and marmalade. My quintessential ‘home’ food.
Heinz baked beans – the english version, especially Helen style with cheddar cheese and toast, or with a baked potato.
Macaroni with Campbells mushrooms soup as the sauce with frozen peas and either ham or tuna. One of my Mum’s staple dishes when I was a child; simple and soothing and reminds me of when school used to only be half a day and I could come home and watch the Flumps, Bod, Mr Benn and Bagpuss.
Risotto has been a go-to for me during a few emotional crises. Partly because it is an excuse to open a bottle of wine but also because the lengthy stirring is therapeutic and it is cheesy, creamy and divine.
It doesn’t really fit the pattern, but I would also add Thai green curry. It grew to be habitual when I lived across the street from Talad Thai in Putney.
It seems that comfort foods for me are usually hot, often breakfast foods, mostly savory and often associated with childhood. According to Wikipedia, I seem to fall in to a lot of the British comfort food stereotypes. Do we need comfort foods more in the winter? It does seems that way. I love ice cream, but does it fit the bill as a comfort food? Can ice cold things be comforting? I guess, they are if you have a fever. Chocolate seems to be an omission from the list, given its emotional connections – and hot chocolate would therefore be a double whammy.
I am sure that everyone’s list is different, based on where you grew up, and what foods you commonly ate; but I imagine that there are some commonalities. I am intrigued to see what everyone brings to the pot luck and as for my contribution, watch this space.
What are some of your comfort foods?