Monday, September 13, 2010

Reinventing your comfort foods

After blogging and commenting and talking about food availability in Chile, and eating pumpernickel bread with cream cheese and a marinated cucumber and red onion salad that reminds me of pickled herring, and the whole plate just kind of reminded me of childhood, I got to thinking more about comfort foods.

I guess if you've been mostly in the same place, your comfort foods change as you meet new people or try new dishes or revive old ones. You have the ones you grew up with, maybe mom's mac and cheese with buttered crumbs (this one seems to loom large in many people's gastronomic memories, though it's not something I grew up with), or lasagne, or ridiculously-shaped semi-burned hamburgers with drippy melted cheese on a bun that falls apart (again, extrapolating, not much of a meat eater).

And if you move around, you might have different comfort foods that make you smile depending on where you've been. The first time I remember reinventing a comfort food was during the six months I spend in Central America in the early 90s. It seemed like every time I moved to a new place, illness would strike. It is worth noting that I do not have a stomach made of gossamer fabric and delicate lace, but the different fauna wreaked havoc with my digestive system on more than one occasion on that trip, and at least one time it was my fault for drinking an ancient, putrid, dusty can of diet pepsi on the Mexico-Guatemala border in a room at a brothel that the proprietors let me and my friend Debbie have, where the door went neither all the way to the ceiling nor all the way to the floor.

But I digress. On that trip, I developed a bit of a fear unpredictable tummy issues, and a tremendous love for oranges (which I had never eaten much of before) and sleeves of saltine crackers spread with refried beans. I think I ate this nutritious never-fail combination dozens of times, and never got sick. To this day, I can buy some saltines (called "american" crackers here) and whip up (or buy) some refried beans and call it a meal.

You would think that comfort foods would be set in stone from childhood, but from what I can see from putting myself under the microscope, that's not necessarily the case. How about you? What's a comfort food you've developed for yourself, or that's come to you late in life, as a product of traveling or meeting new people or moving or marriage or whathaveyou?


Anonymous said...

So true! My comfort foods from childhood (ok I still like baked beans on toast and proper tea...why yes my mother was British!) are not common for me now. I still like soups, but prefer them spicy now, and I like curry with rice after a bad day--something I first tasted in college. Oh, and when overseas I crave Mexican food--again, something I never had a child.

Annje said...

Definitely not set in stone-from childhood, mostly baked things-bread, apple pie, cookies-I think that is why I love to bake-those smells say home to me. I also love saltines with avocado, a treat when I was little.

Since then the list has grown and changed, though soups are often on the list: paila marina and pozole for example. I also love our version of carbonada and this chicken braised in white wine and garlic I make.

Kristin said...

Any kind of pasta please!

Ugh, that diet pepsi experience sounds horrible!

Eileen said...

votes for pasta and soup, you're my kind of people! In Chile, my comfort food is Porotos Granados, for sure, but all of what you guys said works for me, too.

And the diet pepsi thing was very strange. At the time I barely drank soda, and it seemed like a much better idea than it ultimately turned out to be! The brothel is a pretty good story, too though, don't you think? The next day we found out that Clinton had won the US presidency. Which is at least as memorable as what that soda did to me.

Audrey said...

My current comfort foods are more from my adult life than childhood - these are dishes that I made over and over again when we lived in Prague and now they serve as comfort food to me on the road. Lentil curry (faux Indian) made with plain yogurt, gooey brownies/chocolate chip cookie bars and apple crisp are at the top of my list (Yes, I have a sweet tooth). These days, Dan's Thai curry and spicy creamy tomato sauce are also comfort foods - just the smell from the kitchen takes me to a happy place.

Anonymous said...

My current comfort food is something that is a later in adulthood thing, steamed carrots and tahini sauce. For some reason this always settles my tummy if I am having any kind of tummy episode.
Another is ice cream stirred up with liquid (a little water or almond milk/ dairy free ice cream of course.) This is not a tummy settler (haha) just a comforting food.

In early adulthood it was chips and salsa. That was more of a stress food. I'd eat it by the bundles whenever I was stressed, which was often.

You've got me thinking on comfort foods now Eileen, and the list could be long.

In the winter soups or tapioca pudding would make the list.
Ok, I'll stop now.