Comfort Food

I haven’t seen as many posts about cookie baking this year as I usually do around the holidays. Maybe it’s the algorithm that social media has forced on me but again it could be the inflationary cost of sugar and the lack of decent butter. I know that I had to resort to Amazon to get the candied fruit for my dad’s annual “applesauce cake” (we can’t call it fruitcake, it’s an applesauce cake because nobody would eat a fruitcake).

Around the holidays there are comfort foods that I make and long for – Mimi’s cookies (which I make with butter not Crisco). Mama’s Peppermint Marshmallow Pie that no one else likes so I don’t make it anymore.

My husband wants to make a proper Victorian mincemeat if he can source suet.

Thanksgiving this year made me realize that turkey soup is a comfort food. I’m not even talking good turkey soup. I’m talking the over cooked bone broth, mushy potatoes and carrots that Mama used to make. That and the turkey sandwiches with Miracle Whip and cranberry sauce that my dad did before becoming vegetarian. Although Miracle Whip doesn’t have the same texture it did when I was a child. Something in it has changed it’s more goopy and sticky, not as smooth.

I remember someone telling me that tomato soup and grilled cheese was a comfort food because their father would never let them eat it. They only had it when they were home alone with mom. As an adult she once asked her father why he wouldn’t let them eat it. To him it was poverty food and reminded him of growing up with nothing else available for supper. He had determined to always provide better for his family. Knowing that about her dad made it even more comforting.

The two meals that my grandfather would never allow served were stuffed bell peppers and Navy bean soup. He said bell peppers gave him gas and he had eaten a lifetime’s worth of bean soup in the Navy and he never wanted to eat it again.

Speaking of never eating something because of the military, my husband came back from TDY and announced that there would never be Chicken ala King on our table. For 2 weeks straight 3 meals a day his unit had been served the Chicken ala King MRE. If he never ate it again it would be too soon. So I have never fixed chicken ala King for my kids.

Just so you know, some of the other comfort meals for me are corned beef or tuna gravy (commonly known as S**t on a shingle), creamed peas and potatoes, mujadara, and S&B Mild Curry Roux with potatoes, carrots and peas over rice.

As long as the mujadara is eaten with rice, they’re all high carb foods which makes sense as carbs help the brain release serotonin and that makes you feel better. Do you have any comfort foods that aren’t heavy in carbs? What are they?

Just a thought not fully formed…

I’ve been thinking about cultural appropriation specifically about food after some comments I’ve seen on curry and avocado toast. And a trip to Spitz that didn’t turn out well.

My grandparents were newlyweds during WWII, they didn’t have access to crops from “enemy” countries. Same with a lot of spices. They were suspicious of “foreign” things because that’s where the war was.  Some of the recipes from women’s magazines at the time warn against using Asian spices.

They didn’t share any of those “enemy” things with their baby boomer kids who discovered a lot of things like mangoes and spices when refugees came after the Vietnam.  Refugees bring great new things with them, but if you’re suspicious of refugees, you also don’t try the new things.

As more immigrants move into areas, more ethnic restaurants pop up to meet community needs. You can tell who the racists are when they start complaining about not having any “good” or “normal” places to eat.

But immigrants can’t always get the same ingredients in the US as they got at home (any other Finns smuggle in makkara?) which leads to adaptation to get a similar flavor or texture to what you had at home.

Children going to school with more diverse people discover new foods and flavors (Rosemary Wells Yoko, anyone?). The more diversity children experience growing up, the more they can bring those experiences back to their parents, and both generations learn (as long as there is a growth mindset, but that’s another topic).

I personally love discovering new flavors. But I’ve also run into situations where I’ve been told that hot spices are sinful (still looking for the scripture on that one). It’s got me thinking of Anthony Bourdain and how he tried to reach and learn about others through food.

It’s also got me wondering how society has used food to enforce racism and systemic discrimination.

Was there a food you were told to avoid without being given a clear reason? Also, how has food changed over time for you?

That last question comes up because I was looking at a museum piece from the 1800s, and they talk about the lobster and oysters being a succulent meal. But at the time period, when it was painted, those foods were poverty and prison fare. No one with money would have eaten lobster. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that lobster became a delicacy instead of the cockroach of the sea.

It also reminds me of the cottage cheese and yogurt industry. In the 1970s, dairy manufacturers and women’s magazines began advertising cottage cheese as a way to lose weight (anyone or their mom do the cottage cheese diet?). Then, manufacturers discovered yogurt was cheaper to make, and now yogurt is the diet breakfast of choice.

Now, I’m hungry. I think I’ll go fix something to eat from a forbidden food list.