“There is nothing, absolutely nothing that pleasures me more than a bowl of pasta and tomato sauce. When I want to reach out with all my love to my husband, a dish of pasta and tomatoes is almost always in my hands. When I am worn out and the world isn’t such a nice place to be in, I make tomato sauce and pasta. When time is short but dear friends must be fed with joy and not pressure, I make pasta with tomato sauce.”
–Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Host of “The Splendid Table”),
speaking about comfort food for PBS’ The Meaning of Food
“Comfort food” is a great phrase! Can you guess what kind of food it is?
It’s not any one special food, because it’s different for everyone. It’s the food that comforts you. It might not be your #1 favorite food or the food that you think tastes best in the world. Instead, it’s something that makes you feel better when you are tired, sad, lonely, or sick.
For many people, their comfort foods are things they ate when they were small children, or that were treats when they were growing up. I asked five other Americans what their comfort foods are. Here’s what they said:
Me: macaroni and cheese, biscuits and gravy, flapjacks, hot French bread, royal milk tea, hot chocolate, warm homemade chocolate pudding, warm cinnamon rolls
My husband, Clint: macaroni and cheese, vanilla milk, spaghetti with meat sauce, pecan pie, hot links sausage, rice pudding, sushi (yes, really!)
My roommate and friend, Jenn: apple pie, chicken soup, split pea soup, fresh hot white bread, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, chicken pot pie, peach cobbler, barbecued ribs
My roommate and friend, Cory: pizza, lasagna, steak, ice cream, spinach and artichoke heart souffle
Cory’s friend, Jesse: meatloaf with twice-baked potatoes and brown gravy, fried okra
My friend, Paul: homemade (not microwaved) popcorn, homemade chocolate chip cookies
As you can see, there’s a variety of answers, but most of the answers aren’t healthy! These are the foods that you eat when you don’t care about the calories. Comfort foods are the ones that you miss when you go overseas for the first time. Sometimes people miss their comfort foods so much that they’ll pay lots of money at an international grocery store to get it, or they’ll ask their family members to mail it to them if possible.
(It’s also possible to gain a new comfort food during your life. When Clint started eating sushi after he moved to California, he just loved it, and he always felt like he was in a better mood after he ate sushi. So now it’s a comfort food for him. Royal milk tea is something I had for the first time in Japan, on the first day of our honeymoon, standing on a bullet train platform in Tokyo.)
If you want to read more about comfort food, visit PBS’ The Meaning of Food: Comfort Food. They asked some famous chefs and others to talk about their own comfort foods. Recipes are even included!
What is one of your comfort foods? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Do you make it or buy it? (Or do you ask a family member to make it?) Why do you think it makes you feel better?
(After the health-food craze of the 1980s and 1990s, comfort food became a popular subject for cookbooks in the USA. Some people think it’s because Americans became more stressed out in the late 1990s. I don’t know, but the cookbooks are fun to look at! Please note: clicking on these images takes you away from this page, to the Amazon.com page about each book)