My husband always jokes that I have a taste for fancy food. I never thought of my comfort food as anything elaborate. The meals I love and crave help me feel closer to home. They are my vintage memories wrapped in the warmth of family and friends.
Nothing expresses endearment like a dish prepared with love. Sharing a meal fills the spirit and brings family closer together. Comfort food may not be at the center of every meal, but it’s a spoonful of comfort when we need it the most.
Whenever I make my mom’s rum cake I am whisked back in time to her kitchen as the sweet aroma of her cake fills the house. Chicken mole, homemade flour tortillas and Spanish rice evoke memories of our next-door neighbor, who would often share these savory dishes with us. Sometimes I reminisce about our church potlucks, craving the lumpia and pancit that was always served.
I never realized how much my food experiences shaped the woman I am today. When I need a little comfort I turn to curries, jasmine rice, and dishes with Asian roots. These meals fill my spirit, warm my heart, and satisfy my nostalgic hunger.
Four women share their comfort food stories
Alexis from The Writer’s Space
My story is one of my father who was an older father to me. His family was from Belarus. Therefore, his cooking reflected old-world cooking which all is nostalgic, and most are comfort food.
He told many stories along with his cooking. This one is about Mamaliga. Cornmeal mush served with lots of sweet butter, a tablespoon of cottage cheese, and a teaspoon of sour cream. Its warmth, texture, and varied flavors warmed my ‘tummy’ then and warm my soul even now.
My grandfather made this dish for all his boys- five of them. He told stories and spoke about his day, such as my father did to me. My grandfather asked each child about his day- always encouraging, never scolding, always to find a better, kinder way to do things. My father followed suit. I do miss him. I miss the cornmeal mush and the stories. I miss what it means, generationally, but most of all I miss my father.
An avid reader from her early childhood, Ms. Skriloff James has remained a voracious consumer of literature well into her adulthood. As a teen, she entered a writing contest and won, inspiring her to consider writing professionally. In addition to her precocious talent with language, Ms. Skriloff James was a gifted mathematics student, which she would later leverage in numerous genres and niches as a writer. As well as creating her blog site, she is currently working as a writing coach, technical writer, editor, and researcher. Learn more about her writing services here.
Jody from Aspire to Find A Solution
Food has always woven its way through every aspect of my life. There are favorite birthday meals—cube steak, pounded thin and stuffed with cheese and vegetables. Favorite birthday cakes—always chocolate and preferably with chocolate icing and sprinkles. Holiday traditional foods, like Jell-O filled with fruit, nuts, and celery. Mandel bread (like biscotti) that my nana made, and my grandmother’s famous peeled grapefruit sections that held together perfectly.
There was my mom’s ground beef chili always served with saltines and melted cheddar cheese and the baloney, eggs and crumbled matzoh my dad made every Passover that I refused to eat.
I became an expert apple pie baker, thanks to my mom’s loving guidance. (I seemed to have recently lost my touch.) If I had to pick just ONE comfort food it is chewy, gooey, and still-warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. They were and still are one of my favorite things to bake and eat by the dozen.
The process of creaming the butter and sugar together, the fragrant vanilla turning the batter a light brown, scooping the icky membrane from the eggs (and inevitable shell bits) was the necessary evil part of the process.
The sifting flour, salt, and soda in the old metal sifter made a reassuring swish that guaranteed warm cookies were on the way and the whir of the mixer as it clanked against the glass bowl, made the process go a little faster. The last step was to add the dark chocolate chips. A cup for the mix, a handful for me, and repeat. Until the dough was thoroughly studded with dark chocolate morsels.
Even spoonful’s on to the greased cookie sheets ensured even baking. The smell once was intoxicating. I could barely let them cool before I had to taste test them. I had to leave some, of course, so that my brother, mom, and dad could have their share.
The cookies would cool on metal racks lining the kitchen counter for a few minutes and then I would slip them one by one (one for me, one for the jar) into the tin jar that graced our kitchen counter.
The cookie jar had a Blue Magic Glass Top that was supposed to turn pink, warning you that the cookies were in danger of going stale. The color was a moot point in our kitchen, because those delectable chocolate chip cookies, in all their gooeyness, never lasted long enough in the jar to see the lid turn pink.
Jody loves all things chocolate and to be fair, everything food related except for eggs, fish, and liver. Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Jody owns a virtual assistant business, is a blogger, wife, doggy mom, and coffee fiend (goes so well with cookies, of course). You can find her at both her blog and website.
Anika from Storyna
For many of us, food plays a big part in our life – for better or for worse! It is more than just the fuel that keeps us going. We often associate places, times, and people with the different textures, smells and tastes that food gives us. For me, curries take me back to a time when I travelled around Asia, delicious breads, salami, and cheese to visiting my nan in Germany and Haggis takes me instantly back to hiking in Scotland with my husband.
As much as I love all these dishes (and the memories I associate with them), comfort food for me is even more special, as it triggers memories and emotions on a whole deeper level still. For me, the definition of comfort food is that it sort of ‘lifts’ us when we are feeling low and gives us some much-needed tender loving care. Often, there is a link to family traditions, as many of our comfort foods were first introduced to us when we were little – and a loved one made something special for us. For some, this may be a regular meal that you always had – like Spaghetti Bolognese on weeknights after practice, or Roast Beef and potatoes on a Sunday evening with all the family.
For others, it might be having pizza takeout or making popcorn and watching a movie together, or simply being allowed to pick your favorite candy at the store. Having these meals – or making them and smelling the delicious aromas of the food as it starts to waft through your home, will often take you instantly back to the moment when this dish was first made or bought for you. And in doing so, will allow you to feel that same sense of care, love, and comfort that it gave you all those years ago.
The comfort food that stands out for me is making homemade mayonnaise with my mum. The very first time we did this, was when we lived in South-East Asia and I think she had run out of things to do with me and I was getting grumpy. I must have been only 3 or 4 and she sat me on the kitchen countertop, separated the egg yolk from the egg white and very slowly started whisking sunflower oil into the egg yolk bit by bit. Before my eyes, the yolk gradually turned into this glossy, delicious mayonnaise that I was allowed to taste along the way, adding a bit of salt and garlic.
I don’t remember what we ate the mayo with all those years ago, but still today, if I feel like I need a little comfort, my instinct is to make mayonnaise. My children, too, now sit on the countertop and taste as I gradually add oil to egg yolk and make mayonnaise for my family.
Comfort food in particular can be a huge part of honouring your family traditions – big and small – and are a key ingredient to keeping us grounded. In today’s busy world, we often seem to be too exhausted or stressed out to make time for family traditions. Even dinner time seems to be consumed by scrolling on our phones rather than acknowledging and connecting with those around us.
So, next time when you are tired of the same old meal’s day in day out, why not think back to the one dish that really stands out for you as a child. Find the ingredients and the recipe and make it for yourself and your family. Or get that pizza ordered, buy the candy bar, or make popcorn and have a movie together. Tell the story behind it and share why it makes you feel good to have this dish! Or, if you feel like just cooking it for yourself – indulge in the wonderful sense of ‘TLC’ that preparing and eating your comfort food gives you.
Comfort foods are so much more than just food – they can remind us of our roots and give us a sense of belonging. They are a way of reminding us of our ancestors and welcoming new family members in. For those who have emigrated or whose family’s live-in far-flung corners of the globe, comfort foods can be a way of staying connected and sharing with your children your heritage. They give a sense of comfort and continuity in a country that is new, different, and unfamiliar.
Comfort foods can also pass on important family values and create wonderfully warm, positive childhood memories. They allow us to share the stories of loved ones that have helped play a part in who and where we are today.
So next time you reach for your comfort food – whatever that might be, have a smile to yourself and allow yourself that wonderful warm sense of wellbeing it gives you. Your comfort food (like mine) may be full of calories – but save the guilt for another dish and just enjoy!
Anika is the the Co-Founder of STORYNA, a blog and online writing platform that helps people capture their most meaningful memories in beautiful keepsake books for generations to come. Learn more at Storyna.com
Samantha is a University student
When I entered college, everyone was confused with my affinity for sweetened tea. If my friends became sad or began to feel futile, for me the answer was simple: make them tea. Tea, for me, is so much more than a warm beverage for a winter day. To me, tea is the embodiment of warmth, comfort, and care, and, in a way, it is my personification of kindness.
This tea is not your everyday tea. It is black English tea, with spoonful’s of sugar and a splash of milk, just to make the color turn. The recipe for this tea came from my mother. My mom would make me this tea when I was little, anytime I felt down. With the warmth of the cup radiating into my hands and my mother’s smiling face in front of me, I was reminded that things would improve. Through its sweetness and warmth, it redefined what kindness meant to me.
Being kind is not something that is explicitly defined in any means, as well all perceive kindness differently. It is not even something that can be associated with an action per say, but rather a feeling. Kindness is created by a rushing feeling of warmth. It is something that convinces you that you matter in some way, at least, to the person who gave you kindness. This feeling is something I aspire to help others receive on any given day. Each day, I try to make another person smile or raise their spirits, but I never would have been able to do this without tea first demonstrating to me that feeling of kindness, love, and care.
Therefore, my comfort tea has acted as the embodiment of what kindness is, and through this, it has provided me a reference to what I should elicit in others. It prompts me to look for radiation in others and compels me to convince others of their importance. Overall, it has inspired me to be a better, kinder person to those around me by making me feel as good as it does. Now, it serves for me as the foundation of my spirit, as well as a nostalgic memory that brings me peace. Still, tea is an important part of my life, and I will continue to ask others: what if I made you tea?
What’s your favorite comfort food? Let me know in the comments below.