What’s your ‘go to’ comfort food?

What exactly is comfort food?

How would you describe comfort food?

Is it something that’s related to your childhood or your family, or something that has a cultural connection?

These are just some of the questions posed in Chapter 2 of our discussion course, Eating their words: The literature of food.

Defined as food that gives emotional comfort to the one eating it, these tend to be favorite foods of childhood, or linked to a person, place or time with which the food has a positive association. Source

In our notes we were given a few quotes that say something similar:

Anneli Rufus, in the online journal Salon, describes it as a food that gives us a “rush of sensations that make us feel safe, calm and cared for….a complex interplay of memory, history and brain chemistry.” Food can be “the friend who never disappoints or ditches us”.

And according to Cari Romm in The Atlantic magazine, comfort food is “anything that a person uses to feel better”.

Discussion

It’s interesting to do a search for ‘comfort foods’ to see what comes up!  We also had a list of books written about comfort foods from a variety of well known chefs, which shows that it’s a ‘real thing’.

We had a great discussion about what our comfort foods are and the link between science, habit and familiarity.

We learnt that some comfort foods apparently have a physiological basis – sugar and starch can spur the release of serotonin which is known to increase a sense of well being, whereas salty foods like crunchy potato chips can spur oxytocin, the ‘cuddle chemical’ (and the one that is prevalent in breastfeeding to release the ‘let-go’ sensation).

Quality Research

I even interviewed some of my family on our recent weekend together, about their ‘go to’ comfort foods, (I take my research seriously!) and their responses included – mashed potato with lots of gravy, sweet foods like pastries, childhood favourites like butterscotch pudding, custard, rice pudding and only a few mentioned savoury foods and one said steak!

Some comfort foods seems to have a guilty edge to them like chocolate or wine.

I liked this quote included in our notes:

Perhaps it’s because in this crowded, hard world, we have convinced ourselves that seeking comfort is itself embarrassing, as it if makes us weak.  We are ashamed to crave the salty, starchy, soft, unctuous and sweet, because we tell ourselves we are too smart to want what the judgmental would call junk… Anneli Rufus

Question: Do you think we try to fill our emotional emptiness by eating?

Lemon meringue pancakes - comfort food for brunch?
Comfort food for brunch?

Food, comfort and families

Our talk led us onto other subjects like how some cultures have special foods for eating at a funeral in a special order and why we always have such a bountiful spread at the wake.  We are lucky to have as one of our members, a woman who grew up in Poland, and she shared many stories of the importance of food at various times.  We were enthralled with the story about sharing poppy-seed rolls as a visitor at a funeral while she was travelling in Europe.  Does anyone know of the connection between poppy-seeds and funerals?

Likewise the sitting around the table as a family sharing dinner.  It’s often not the food we remember as being comforting, it’s the shared mealtimes, the talk that weaves around the table and the sense of family.  We all agreed this is something that needs to continue for the well being of family life and studies have shown the benefits of sharing mealtimes together.

Our readings included a funny post about a young newly wed couple from 1932 and their first meal as a married couple after they returned home from their honeymoon!  Oh how times have changed!!

Another reading shared the memories of the lunchtime ritual of Indian school students where they’d share their lunches and learn about the different religious and cultural backgrounds as they’d try unfamiliar foods.  I’m sure we all remember sharing lunches with our friends too!

We shared lots of memories – I can remember making mince pies with my grandmother and great aunt every Christmas and the fun we had together – to this day when I eat a mince pie I return to those memories.

One member spoke of her continued love of condensed milk and another shared how they were given a tube of condensed milk each Christmas.  I can remember finding empty tins of condensed milk under my daughters’ beds 🙂

I think back to the many Rotary Youth Exchange students we have hosted in our family and when asked what they miss about home, they invariably say the food.  They miss their ‘own’ breads, the taste of their mother’s cooking, the treats…and I always have a cooking session with them where they teach me how to cook one of their favourite dishes.  It’s a fun time where we explore each other’s cultures and enjoy the results of the session.  It also helps them stay in touch with their idea of comfort food and home.

Question: Is your comfort food associated with your childhood?

Recap

In this, our latest get-together, we again had a variety of readings provided, notes and discussion activities.  One of the members takes notes as we talk and collates these into a report which is emailed to our lecturer.  The report is read and commented on (not marked, it’s not an assignment!) and this week we delighted in hearing the lecturer’s thoughts and responses to our first meeting. She sounds like a lot of fun!

My first post The Literature of food – yes that’s a real thing came about in response to my fellow group members challenging me to write a post about food, as:

a) I’m not known as a food blogger and

b) I don’t really enjoy cooking that much

In Chapter 1 we discussed Writing about food and science, the language around food, how we communicate taste, texture and whether we live to eat or eat to live.  It was a great discussion and my post had a variety of responses from readers keen to share their thoughts 🙂

I’ve  now been challenged to write a post after each meeting to summarise my thoughts and reflect on the discussion that takes place over an extended lunch with the group of friends.  In case you’re interested, my first post tells the story of our discussion group through WEA – it’s like a distance education course we undertake with a group of friends while we eat lunch together (quite fitting as this course is all about food).  Other topics we’ve done include Scandinavian cultural greats and Women travellers and writing.  It’s always interesting to read, discuss and learn from each other in a relaxed environment.

Next chapters

The next chapters of the course include the following topics and I’ll keep you updated on our discussions.

Chapter 3: Literary food: Fiction and Non-Fiction

Chapter 4: Historical food

Chapter 5: Eating – recipes and reviews

Chapter 6: Food in the future

Comfort food - lemon meringue pancakes
Comfort food

Last words

I love this snippet from our WEA notes about Australians setting up cafes in New York city, I’m sorry I don’t know the exact source:

One of the most obvious signs of the Australianness of these cafes comes not from the decor but the colour of the food.  American breakfasts tend to be dominated by shades of beige: omelettes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, waffles, pancakes, French toast.  Australian cafe breakfasts…are bursting with vibrancy: brightly coloured micro herbs, orange salmon and, everywhere, the unmistakable green of smashed avocado…

Notice I haven’t mentioned Vegemite but I will if you want me to!  It’s something that’s an acquired taste 🙂

Question: Do you have any thoughts to add on comfort food?

Happy eating – think about what you’re currently eating and if it has any association to family or your cultural background 🙂

To answer my own question: my ‘go-to’ comfort food depends on how I’m feeling – sometimes I need salty potato chips (crisps) and other times I need chocolate/sweet things 🙂

Over to you……

Deb xx

Sources: Please note many of the quotes used in my post came from the WEA Discussion Group Programme  Eating their words: The Literature of Food,  D224 by Dr Jeanette Delamoir.

You can also find Deb’s World here – join in the conversation!

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Midlife is an adventure

74 Replies to “What’s your ‘go to’ comfort food?”

  1. How wonderful is this post and the many reactions from others. In my world, comfort food included vegemite and butter on toast, tomato soup and cake (well mostly). However my ultimate comfort food is chocolate. I think my simple memories are borne of childhood and I sure have memories of wonderful meals too. Mind you, crumbed cutlets figure high as well.

    Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt is Summer Means This. Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Denyse, I can relate to the Vegemite and butter on bread and also chocolate! I’m so happy everyone has responded to this post as they have it makes for a great conversation doesn’t it? Thanks for joining in.

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  2. Deb, that is so true for me as well about food being a major thing I miss about a place. One of the things I missed whe I first moved from Perth to Sydney was WA branded yoghurt. We also had our own kind of Arnott’s Ginger Nut biscuits back then too.

    SSG xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When we were kids my mum would most usually make us a meat and three veg dinner, that would always include mashed potatoes. They’re the ultimate comfort food for me, although I won’t douse them in tomato sauce anymore, I still love garlic mashed potatoes in winter! #LifeThisWeek

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find food to be a fascinating topic. How interesting that you are looking at it from so many different angles. For me, cooking and baking are expressions of love. It’s my way of nurturing others. I’m sure there is an unhealthy side to that, but I think it can be comforting and grounding as well. I love baking pies and cakes most of all. Though my favorite comfort food is probably creme brûlée.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve used food almost as a character in my last 2 novels – it’s something I write about a lot. I bake for comfort and focus when I’m feeling overwhelmed and chaotic, although I don’t eat food with sugar in it – I do, however, drink plenty of sugar in its fermented grape form lol… As for comfort food, for me, it’s vegemite and cheese sandwiches on white bread with butter. The bread has to be plain white bread, the butter has to be real, and the cheese has to be fake. Given that everything else I cook is “real” food, it’s definitely a weird one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting. When I was in highschool (70s) we had an exchange student from Yugoslavia. She once made her favorite food for us, rice pudding, which we had never eaten. We kids didn’t fall in love with it and she was soooo upset I still remember how bad I felt.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating reading and that photo made me wish it was real and in front of me with a spoon. My comfort food varies – it could be a baked potato with butter and cheese or it could be chocolate, or cake. I guess it depends on whether I need the cuddle hormone or the feel good. Looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m happy my photo made you hungry!! The course is really interesting and I’m glad to have everyone else along for the ride too. Comfort foods always seem to be what we need when we aren’t really hungry at all, we just need something at that time. I agree with you I’m the same, it depends what I’m needing as to what I want to eat to comfort myself. Thanks for joining in 😊

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  8. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series. As for me? There’s the childhood fave of vegemite & cheese sandwiches on white bread. If I’m feeling low & can get it, Vietnamese noodle soup or pho is my go to. I also make Hainanese chicken rice – another ultimate comfort food.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pleased you’re enjoying the course too Jo, it’s great having everyone’s interest and comments. I love white bread too when I’m feeling low, it’s so comforting for some reason. I suppose pho or any noodle type soup is easy to eat and comforting too. Thanks for your comment, I love hearing from everyone.

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  9. Comfort foods are so wrapped up in our sense of self. They are so much more than food, as you have pointed out. They are emotions, love, family, and memories wrapped up in little pieces of dough or mom’s special sauce. I know that my comfort foods have been the downfall of many a diet plan. Now, I am working on making healthier versions of my favorite comfort foods.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I’m with you Michele, the downfall of many a diet plan!! I like your efforts of making healthier versions of comfort foods, I think I’m on that path too at the moment. All the best and thanks for joining in. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have to agree about the mince pie. Our grandmother always made mince pie at Christmas and she made the best pie crust. My one sister and I are the only ones that enjoyed the pies and we both are always trying to make one that tastes like grandmas. My go-to comfort food is always sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love how this group is getting your mind so stimulated Deb – all that thinking and discussing and learning about different cultures would be really enjoyable. As far as comfort food goes – mine is always potato related – hot chips are a treat if I’m feeling a bit low and mashed potato always makes me feel better if I’m feeling a bit off colour (it was my go-to food when I had evening sickness in my second pregnancy and it seems to have stuck!) Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing Leanne. You’re right I’m enjoying this subject immensely and love the feedback I’m getting too. Isn’t it funny how potatoes are considered a comfort food by so many – it has to be the starchy goodness in them. Lovely to have your thoughts.

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  12. This post made me think – what is comfort food really for me? I love gooey pastries, but they’re not really comfort food as I feel so guilty for eating them (and possibly a little queasy too!). So I think it’s something more like smashed avocado on fresh baked sourdough bread with a well poached egg on top. That makes me feel good and does me good I hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your post grought back so nany memories for me. I do miss dinner time conversation around the table with the children. My favourite comfort food would be mashed potato and gravy. But I rarely have it these days. Most comfort food does seem to be heavily carb loaded

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely to hear your thoughts Jennifer. My MIL’s favourite is mashed potato and gravy too. You’re right most comfort foods are carb loaded food and there’s a reason why that’s the case from our discussion group – it’s all quite scientific apparently! Thanks again for joining in 🙂

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  14. My comfort food is chocolate – either dark chocolate truffles OR a jar of nutella 😜 Interesting post especially over the breakfast comparison! My all time perfect breakfast is scrambled egg topped with smoked salmon topped with a dollop of black caviar … and a flute of champagne to wash it down with. Alternatively I’d settle for a bowl of crunchy nutty granola with milk topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt washed down with a mug of tea! 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That all sounds utterly delicious Linda, and I’ve only just had breakfast!! I’ glad you enjoyed the post, it’s a great discussion topic and I’m really enjoying it far more than I thought I would. Thanks for sharing your favourites 🙂

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  15. With a chef as a father, a lot of my childhood memories are of food. My all-time favorite is of fried chicken. Whenever we went on day trips, he would get up early in the morning and fry chicken, which then became our picnic lunch while we were out. It tasted just as good cold as it did hot. I love the stuff. On the other hand, the other meal I associate with my father is chicken cordon bleu. While still living home, I worked a 2nd shift job and my father would call me at 10 pm and ask me what I wanted to eat. I would either tell him fried chicken or chicken cordon bleu. No matter what I requested, it would be ready just as I was walking in the door around 11:30 pm. But, since my dad died in 1999, I’ve never wanted chicken cordon bleu again.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi, Debbie – I am thoroughly enjoying following your Discussion Course vicariously. I am happy that you took up the challenge to do a detailed write up after each Chapter. It was interesting reading about different peoples unique comfort foods. Mine is ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’. 🙂 I look forward to reading about ‘Fiction and Non-Fiction Food’!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Donna, I’m so glad you are enjoying it too. It’s so much more interesting and fun than I thought it would be considering I’m not really a foodie at all! I think chicken noodle soup is one of those all time favourites. Yes the next chapters sound good too. I really appreciate you coming along with me 🙂 The group are intrigued that I have people from all over the world interested in reading my posts!!!

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  17. That lemon meringue pancake looks sooo delicious!! Where can one find that?

    My comfort foods have always been chicken and dumplings, roast beef and potatoes, and waffles. All bring back memories of my childhood and my family traveling all over Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment and sharing your favourite comfort foods. It’s funny how they tend to be foods from our childhood.

      The lemon meringue pancakes were fab – a pancake base with citrus curd, a meringue nest on top with raspberries, cream and ice cream. So easy and tasty 😊 I’m going to try to create them at home.

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  18. What a great idea Deb to record your group learnings and such a fascinating subject. Of course, there are some who suggest that yes comfort eating is bad for our health and unfortunately, people do turn to food rather than dealing with their internal issues or problems. I like the meaning from Anneli Rufis suggesting a ‘“rush of sensations that make us feel safe, calm and cared for”. My Mum, like many Aussies Mums was a basic cook but whenever I eat a simple meal like a roast or sausages and mashed potato (or just ‘mash’ as they call it now in the trendy cafes) I feel she is with me in spirit enjoying a meal. I’m looking forward to the series very much!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Sue, much appreciated as always – it’s a great link up! I look forward to reading more posts later today but I really must get moving at some stage today or I’ll stay on the computer all day.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and sharing your memories Sue. I agree we sometimes need to look at the feelings and issues we should be dealing with rather than reaching for the comfort food. Basic foods are always good though 🙂 I’m enjoying the whole group much more than I thought I would and I’m very happy to share with you 🙂

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