Comfort food – even the words flow together and soothe the soul as you say them. No other category of gastronomy includes such a wide and varied range of foods because sources of comfort and consolation are so intensely personal. Whether your comfort food is linked to nostalgic memories, joyful indulgence, simple convenience, or physical gratification, you can count on it to make a bad day better or a good day outstanding.
Ice cream is the quintessential sweet comfort food and best eaten straight from the carton. Creamy, sweet, and malleable in the spoon and mouth, it meets all the criteria of comfort. If it’s cold outside, the perfect counterpoint is a steamy mug of real hot chocolate made from scratch and topped with tiny marshmallows, a dollop of whipped cream, or both. The rich filling of apple pie or pumpkin pie cradled by flaky crust is a reliable source of solace, as are the luscious layers of banana pudding, with vanilla custard competing with soft fruit and vanilla wafers for center stage. Many find cheer in a rendition of their favorite gelatin dessert and for others, instant happiness is a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, with the morsels still creamy from the heat of the oven.
Beef and chicken are popular sources of comfort, especially simple dishes we remember from family dinners. The heartiness of pot roast, beef stew, shepherd’s pie, and meatloaf warm the cockles of the heart and soul, and a plump steamed hot dog dressed with your favorite toppings along side a bowl of chili can quickly turn your mood from gloomy to bright. Perfectly fried chicken, whether made in your kitchen or picked up at local drive-through, has the tremendous texture combination of crispness and juiciness along with the primitive pleasure of being eaten out-of-hand. To slowly satisfy your chicken cravings, indulge in a bowl of chicken soup, chicken and dumplings, or a big, thick portion of chicken pot pie.
Whether you crave Mom’s creamy recipe or have developed a taste for the quick, boxed version, macaroni and cheese is high on the list of preferred comfort foods. A big plate of spaghetti and meatballs soothes many people, and others’ spirits are lifted by a simple tuna casserole.
The visceral delight of tearing corn kernels from the cob with your teeth is a popular source of contentment, especially if the corn on the cob is slathered in butter. Baked beans and potato salad conjure up wistful memories of family picnics and cookouts. A spoonful of green bean casserole can almost make relatives from past holiday gatherings appear before your eyes, as can a big scoop of creamy mashed potatoes with gravy overflowing the sides.
Family woes, broken hearts, troubles at work – all these tribulations of life seem much more manageable when pondered over a pizza pie. The winning combination of crust, melting, stringy cheese, and toppings that are totally in your control make it one of America’s top comfort food choices. Tomato soup, another favored source of cozy comfort, is claimed by some to stop rainstorms and create double rainbows, quite a deal for pennies a serving, and ready to eat in a matter of minutes.
When you need a food hug, you can find consolation in any food that makes you feel better. Whether you find contentment in a can of sardines or a bowl of lettuce, be sure to keep those items on hand so you always have a soothing embrace you can count on.