We’ve all heard the phrase “comfort food.” According to The Atlantic, the phrase has been around since at least 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story on obesity: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’ — food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup,” it reads, beneath the headline “Sad Child May Overeat.”
The Oxford English Dictionary added a definition of the phrase in 1977. The phrase also appears in Merriam Webster’s dictionary. Those definitions are much less depressing. For example, Merriam Webster defines “comfort food” as “food that is satisfying because it is prepared in a simple or traditional way and reminds you of home, family or friends.”
My comfort food has always been macaroni and cheese. Any kind will do, but my favorite (sad, I know), has been Kraft’s since I was a kid. It’s simple and easy. My mom used to make it for me when I didn’t feel well, especially after I had my wisdom teeth pulled and couldn’t eat anything that wasn’t soft.
When I first moved to Wyoming, the culture shock came in waves. Having moved from Chicago, the small-town feel proved difficult to navigate initially. I missed having everything available to me. I missed endless brunch options on Sundays. I missed my friends. I missed my family. So, whenever my roommate saw me making macaroni and cheese, she knew I was feeling a little homesick.
When I was in college, my roommate and I used to make a spicy macaroni and cheese. It was horribly unhealthy, but quite delicious. It also fit into our small budgets.
Beyond the cheesy goodness, though, I’ve always taken comfort in feeding people. This, I think, is a trait that came from my dad. He has always been the better cook in the family. He’s in charge of holiday meals. He takes pride in what he makes and I always admire his patience.
Whenever we had guests, there was always way too much food. The last thing my dad wanted, it seemed, was to run out of food for our guests. Now, I do the same thing.
I like being able to provide comfort by feeding friends and family. It makes me smile to see guests lean back with full bellies and comment that it’s time for a nap. I guess it’s my way of taking care of people. I’m not great with navigating certain social situations or always expressing my feelings or care for others. So, I do that through food.
On nights when my husband has meetings or he’s gone on fires, I tend to eat cereal or other quick meals. But, this week, I’ve found myself cooking a lot. Leftovers have filled my fridge. I haven’t faced any adversity or struggled — in fact life has been swell for me lately. But, for some reason I still feel the urge to cook and to comfort.