Comfort Foods

Comfort Foods

The term “comfort foods” has been traced back to 1966 when the Palm Beach Post first used the term in a story: "Adults when under severe emotional distress, turned to what could be called comfort food - food associated with the security of childhood, like Mom's chicken noodle soup, or Grandma's tuna noodle casserole.

I can remember many cold winter nights in the north, bundled in my warm PJ's and snuggly bathrobe, when I ate calorie-rich dinners that my mother claimed "warmed our bones." Back then, there was always a large container of beef stew or a pot roast simmering on the stove, making the kitchen a warm and inviting place.

When the temperatures drop, most of us crave hearty meals. In the winter, for instance, my favorite comfort food for lunch was (and still is) a rich hot, tomato soup and a delicious, gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Mac and cheese, chili, meatloaf, braised short ribs and scalloped potatoes always bring back memories of cold nights and warm foods.

In the 1970's, potatoes were the "go to” comfort foods. In our home, they were served drenched in melted cheese (scalloped) or fried until crispy and almost burnt (hashed browns) or laden with globs of butter and mashed with heavy cream. In the 1970's and early 1980's, we enjoyed foods that are all but forgotten by most of us now - delicious fondues (cheese and chocolate), bread bowls, chocolate and rice pudding and pies of all kinds.

In 1976 "The Best of Electric Crockery Cooking” was published and introduced a new-fangled gadget - the Crock Pot. Since then, one dish meals have gained in popularity and become stables in our modern diets. The simplicity and ease of using one pan to prepare a whole meal is addictive.

The healthy eating trends of the 1990's should have signaled the end of rich, comfort foods. The decade was known for its obsession with low-fat or no-fat products. Then Dr. Atkins came on the scene with his revolutionary low-carb diet. The Food Network debuted in 1993. Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse favored "comfort foods” and turned home cooking into an exciting endeavor.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we found ourselves reaching for the same foods we relied on in the weeks after Black Monday, in 1987. We rallied around comfort food again during the 2008 financial crisis, and are stocking up on it today as we quarantine and fight the pandemic.

"Science has tried to explain this persistent draw. One straightforward answer offered by a team of food scientists writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences credits comfort food's appeal to its nutritional make up. Many dishes are high in fat or sugar, substances that the body can process into temporary stress relief. Psychologists have explored a more complicated connection between food and individual memory, theorizing that the well-loved dishes can evoke the same feelings of security and contentment they did when the diner was younger." (Source: "A Brief History of Comfort Food" by April White, May 2020)

With all this concentration on the wonderful world of comfort foods, I'm off to the grocery store to purchase a soup bone or two and make a batch of my grandmother's delicious vegetable soup. It's hearty and wonderful and I'm happy to share her recipe with you. Enjoy!!!

  • 3 lbs. soup meat or 2 lbs. stew meat
Cut up the meat into very small pieces. Put it in a large pan. Add 1 turnip (chopped). Cover with water. Add 2 large onions (chopped), 2 cloves garlic (chopped), a large 12 oz can of tomatoes (chopped). 1 bunch celery (everything). Salt to taste. Simmer 6 hours.

Put pan in the refrigerator overnight. Covered. Then in the morning, skim off the fat (about 1/2 inch). Take out the soup bones and break up any large pieces of meat. Use gloves as everything will be slippery and cold.

  • 1 package baby lima beans
  • 1 package frozen broccoli
  • 2T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • 6 T sugar (or less)
  • 1 T A-1 sauce

Simmer until vegs are cooked. This soup can be frozen in smaller batches.

Until my next inspiration...ciao.


Photo by Gianluca Gerardi on Unsplash

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