Cooking Light magazine had the audacity to ask their audience for a list of their comfort foods. Bananas do not strike me as a comfort food. Carrots (unless they appear in a cake covered with cream cheese icing) have not the kind of comfort a military spouse might truly need.
Experts say that we eat comfort foods as a response to emotional stress. We eat to feel better. We eat as a way to swallow our feelings. We eat to connect to a much simpler time in our lives.
Which is probably why Kraft macaroni and cheese usually tops the list of comfort foods. Fried chicken. Chocolate pudding. Apple pie. Baked beans. Chicken soup.
Now that my husband is deployed again, I am all about comfort eating. But I’ve noticed that the mashed potatoes and gravy I used to love is just not doing it for me this time. I’m not looking to gorge on calories. That isn’t comfort.
Instead, this time I want more than that from my comfort eating. I want to actually feel better. I want foods that make me want to leap off the couch and go do something positive -- like sew a curtain or walk the dog or something. Here is my current list:
1. My mom’s macaroni and cheese casserole from scratch. My mom was always big on throwing tomatoes into things. I do not know why. But when I make her mac and cheese with the tomatoes and the crunchy panko topping, I feel better. I love putting the mini casseroles in my freezer and popping them in the oven so that my house smells like my mommy’s.
2. A steak. I know I’m a girl and everything, but please bring on the meat. Since my fifth grader hates beef, I freeze steaks individually and cook them in a cast iron grill pan on the stove. A steak with a green veg usually means I feel like doing lawn work.
3. Chopped salad. Why is it that chopped vegetables with a little bleu cheese taste so much more substantial than a regular salad? This is a mystery.
4. Popeyes. We have a Popeyes near our house that makes the most amazingly perfect chicken strips. A little Mardi Gras mustard and some red beans and red pop and I’m ridiculously cheerful.
5. Ester Price milk chocolate caramels. I’m from Dayton, Ohio. We have the best chocolate maker in the country. Every once in a while my mom and dad send me a gold box. I can make that thing last for at least a month. One sweet bite of home at a time.
6. Salmon salad at a restaurant. No one in my house eats fish but me. So when I get to go out with friends I love a cheery little salmon cooked by someone who knows how.
7. Spit of the Devil. My Army son laughingly refers to my homemade clam dip as the Spit of the Devil. Once you make it, you gotta eat it. So I only make it when he is home. Or when I wish he was home.
8. Breakfast for dinner. When my dad was deployed, my mom often served pancakes and sausage for dinner. This is especially nice on a rainy night.
9. My grandma’s peach cobbler. One summer when I was in college, I lived with my grandparents. That year the peaches were amazing -- juicy, fragrant, sweet. Grandma taught me to make peach cobbler that year. From then on, every time I made peach cobbler (or a pot roast) I called her from wherever Brad and I were stationed. And now I just wish for her.
10. Spaghetti and meatballs. Before my husband deployed, Brad made me a few dozen of his special recipe meatballs. I save those for the days I need to remind myself what we have together. And what we will still have when he comes home.
Reading through this list makes me realize just how individual people's tastes in comfort really are. And it is a fun list to put together! What would be on your list of ultimate comfort foods ... and why?