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Dec 28
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Comfort Food

chocolaterieKitchen Wisdom
by Lisa Harris

What is comfort food? How is it that we can find comfort in what we eat to feed our bodies? Is it feeding our spirit? Is it feeding our souls? Is it a sacred connection between ourselves and everything or something greater than ourselves?

Comfort food. When I see those words I think of my senses. Hot, cold, damp, dry. I think of emotions and losing control, and having something to hold onto. I think of familiarity and common ground.

Comfort food can be something from our past, a reminder of a time or instance when we are given love or nurtured. Maybe it was a time as a child when we didn’t feel well, or we hurt ourselves. A time we were afraid or felt unloved. A time when we didn’t want to be alone.

Personal journal
The perfect soft boiled egg…

One of the things that comes to mind when I step into a kitchen is, what can I prepare that will bring good feelings and well-being to my friends, my family, or whoever will be eating this food? Are they ill, cold, stressed, or overwhelmed? Are they aware of how much pressure they are under, or what they put upon themselves? How can I help? Is there food that can ease their discomfort or help them along the way?

When I think of comfort food, from a chef’s point of view, what comes to mind is something familiar. Something that brings good feelings to a person through their mouth and stomach. Food that is calming, reassuring, and grounding.

Comfort foods:
hot chocolate, macaroni and cheese, warm cookies and milk, meatloaf, casseroles, pudding, mashed potatoes and gravy, pot roast, fried chicken, grilled cheese, grits, cream of wheat, toast, tomato soup, peanut butter and jelly, ramen, congee, pho, chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, rice pudding, sancocho, popcorn, chicken soup, split pea soup, apple pie a la mode

As I contemplate comfort foods that I want or crave, I think of what goes into choosing a dish and the cooking of that dish. What goes through my mind? What helps me decide what to make?

The weather, the person or persons, the situation, the intuition? How do they respond to the food? What is their background?

Personal journal
Sitting is like being served a plate of food – you rejoice at the favorite meat, then realize you have to eat the peas, too.

Settling down to a steamy bowl of chowder. Sinking your teeth into a grilled cheese sandwich. Cradling a bowl of chicken soup in your lap. Breathing in the steam from a mug of hot cocoa. Biting into a crispy piece of fried chicken. Dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a bowl of tomato soup. The savory flavors of beef pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. Sweet rice pudding.

How many times have you felt loved when someone fed you a meal? When I was young, I remember my grandfather would make a simple ham sandwich on white bread with iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise. It was the most wonderful sandwich in the world, and I can still taste it – crunchy lettuce, sweet ham, creamy mayonnaise, soft white bread. And why is it that when someone makes you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it tastes so much better than when you make it yourself?

Comfort food can come in different forms for different occasions. Sometimes it’s a meal to be eaten slowly and savored, sometimes it’s a snack that is gobbled up to keep fears at bay. It can be food that takes our minds off of a necessary task. Or it can be a meal that reminds us of a time long ago that was full of comfort and well-being.

Perhaps comfort food is simply what we make it. It is whatever works for us in our time of need. It is based on our cultural background and our own experience. It is personal, spiritual, and sacred. And only we can know what that means to us.

Lisa HarrisLisa Harris is a free-range chef, freelance writer, and consultant. She is always on the lookout for seasonal, local foods, and the farmers who provide them in Northern Indiana, where she currently lives, and wherever she travels. You can find more of her experiences and stories in her blog, earthskybelly.wordpress.com and other food related publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

To read other entries in this column, please see: Kitchen Wisdom.

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