Saturday, April 13, 2013

What is Comfort Food Anyway?

Pardon my absence folks, I was at the Renaissance Society Conference in San Diego, then the IACP in San Francisco (my panel with Sandor Katz, Maxime Bilet and Anne McBride on High Tech and Low Tech in the Kitchen went wonderfully). And then I was talking in Sonoma. But a day in between gigs I had an intriguing conversation with my freshmen food seminar, related directly to the dish you see here. One student's research project was on comfort food. I thought I knew what that term meant and we might, with some simple surveying, be able to figure out if there are differences among men and women, people of different backgrounds or ages, or something to make sense of the concept. At least we could decide that there are some basic flavors, textures, nostaglic dishes that work to comfort the tired, weary, stressed - such as I have been from travel. Absolutely NOT. Answers included soup and mashed potatoes, which I expected. But also sausages. (I can see that!) chocolate, ice cream and even cool water. Some students said spicy, others sweet. The answers were so random in fact that I am beginning to doubt the concept has any validity whatsoever.

All I know is that this dish here works as comfort food for my younger son. And me too incidentally. It's ordinary polenta, with butter and parmiggiano. And he's lately been turned on to shrimp. They're breaded in whole wheat panko (that they gave us at the IACP) and fried in coconut oil. They were absolutely succulent. A conceptual nod to shrimp and grits, but not in the least similar. You know, I think just cooking at home is a comfort after travelling for a week. OK So the question is What IS Comfort Food to You?

12 comments:

Amanda said...

Mmmm. Any kind of baked pasta dish. Chicken and dumplings. Fried chicken and grits. My dad's kidney beans with beef. Clearly, I lean toward the savory. Most definitely NOT cool water.

rowanberrywine said...

Spicy, stir-fried, or mac and cheese (Jacques Pepin's version). I guess I am on the savory side as well.

Ken Albala said...

I agree with you both. And definitely not ice cream. Blech.

Myrrh said...

Sour cream and dirty-skillet salmon.

deana sidney said...

Creamy food, sweet or savory

Laura@Silkroadgourmet said...

I may be overthinking this, but I always thought that the term "comfort food" had a strong emotional component to it.

Comfort food isn't just a favorite food or class of foods, but ones that soothe or bring back wonderful memories.

Do you agree? I'd love to know why people chose the dishes they posted.

For me, I think homemade soup of any sort is a comfort food for me. The association was that my mother always made soup when I was sick. A time when she would lavish me with extra care etc. Looking back, those were time when I felt extra close to her. She always made chicken soup, but these days even a bowl of homemade onion soup or a good borscht hits the spot as comfort food. the soup has to be hot - not gazpacho etc.



Ken Albala said...

Laura, I would have thought the exact same thing, but emotion wasn't the criterion at all for my students. And things like polenta, which are comfort food for me, my mom never made.

Konstantina Johnson said...

To me, comfort food is more about what it's not, rather than what it is. It's not the kind of food you convince yourself that you like, just because it's healthy. It is not food that is fussy or pretentious, i.e. food that makes you say, "Oh that's a tiny work of art, I don't want to mess it up with my fork." The he portions of comfort food are also not stingy- you're not worried about calories when you're being comforted. And to the student who said "cool water", well 1. Water isn't food, it's drink, and 2. Seriously dude, don't be a smart-ass!

nfl jerseys cheap said...

I think homemade soup of any sort is a comfort food for me

Bee with Style said...

I think of comfort food as "memory"... your favorite food served by my mother when I was a child... delicious and enjoyed every bite of it. Then, even after becoming an adult, whether you prepared it or ordered it at a restaurant, it brings back the memory of the great taste and great time you had with your family and how wonderfully your mom had prepared it for you.

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Anonymous said...

Anything with tomato sauce.