Monday, August 27, 2007

What is Comfort Food?

Try not to get confused. There's a real difference between 'comfort food' and 'eating for comfort.'

All too often I find myself in the latter category.

Comfort food refers to simple, inexpensive, and generally easy to make food that is familiar. Eating for comfort, on the other hand, is drowning your sorrows in food.

I think that may be one of the reasons that many Mormons, and especially Utah Mormons, are fat. I'm included in the 'rotund set,' myself. There's quite a bit of cultural pressure to raise a large family on a single income. That's getting harder and harder to do these days, but most good Mormons aren't pedantic about it.

There's a whole economy of food that creates situations where cheap food is also fattening food. I think that contributes to why people who are poor, or on an overly tight budget, are also walking on the heavy side of life. Of course, that's a whole 'nother subject and I may blog about it sometime.

Eating for comfort is all too easy for me. I mentioned it a bit when I talked about how I became a Foodie. I've been trying to cut down on this sort of thing, but today was a perfect example of me giving in to my baser nature. I had a rather stressful morning and so, early this evening, I stopped by the convenience store and bought a diet soda and a bag of Funyuns.

No, the irony has not escaped me, thank you.

But that's the problem, really. Instead of turning to actual 'comfort food,' which would be much healthier, we often turn to junk food. It might taste good but it provides little actual comfort; especially not if you feel guilty about eating it, later on.

Comfort food, on the other hand, can be marvelous. Comfort foods tend to be regional. Fried chicken and barbeque are considered comfort foods in the Southern states, hoagies for the Eastern states, with chili and some stews nearly everywhere else in the US.

As people immigrated to the US, they brought their comfort foods with them. (Thank goodness!) Now we can all enjoy tacos, lox and bagels, miso soup, blintzes, and 'bangers and mash' along side our traditional casseroles and macaroni and cheese.

The reasons certain dishes become comfort food are varied. Often these foods are associated with pleasant events from childhood. Small children seem to latch onto a particular food and ask for it consistently (my daughters have all gone through a mashed potato phase, for example), especially in high stress situations. Adults seem to eat comfort food to gain a sense of continuity or stability.

Either way, comfort food is aptly named. In our stress filled world, it's often nice to slow down, get simple, and just get comfortable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Red Baron Root Beer

As a child I loved the Peanuts comic strip. Still do. Even though its creator, Charles Schultz, passed away a few years ago it’s still in syndication and I still enjoy reading, and re-reading the collected comics.

When I was young, and on my way to becoming a Foodie, I had a cookbook that featured characters from the strip. One recipe I remember (and mentioned to you before) was called ‘Red Baron Root Beer.’ It’s a very simple recipe, but it’s fun for kids to make themselves, and a great treat for a hot summer afternoon.

Here’s what I remember about how to make it.

Red Baron Root Beer


Whole Maraschino Cherries
Your Favorite Root Beer

Put the maraschino cherries in an ice cube tray, one or two per cube. Pour your favorite root beer into the trays, along with the cherries, and freeze. Put a few of the frozen root beer cubes into a tall glass, pour in more root beer, and serve.

To be perfectly honest, I prefer making this with cola, or lemon-lime soda. You could try stirring in some of the juice from the packages cherries to the soda for added cherry flavor, if you want. The original recipe included toothpicks in the cherries (I think), but that just makes it dangerous to drink.

Cherry-Root Beer Popsicles

If you want to try a simple variation, you could make small cherry-root beer popsicles. Cover the ice cube tray with plastic wrap, and then sticking toothpicks through the wrap and into the cubes before your put it in the freezer. There are various commercial popsicle molds available, if you want to go that route.