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.


M. Ryan Taylor said...

Funyuns? I hate funyuns! I do, however resonate with the junk food thing, it's just too easy sometimes, and you're right, it doesn't really give comfort. That's why I've decided to have a desert day where I'm going to make one really nice desert a week . . . maybe some real comfort food will help combat the enemy? - Ryan P.S. Hope all is well with you and family!

Sarah said...

Mmmm...comfort food! Mine are porridge with brown sugar and raisins mixed in, rice pudding, beef stroganoff and graham crackers with cream cheese spread on them. Like you said, these are all foods my mom made for me as a kid are more about the emotions than the taste. I've never tried funyuns but can imagine they were a delightful foil to the diet soda.

John Newman said...

Hey M! Glad to find you at my food blog. A 'desert day' is a really interesting idea. Feed the inner food demon, make it worth your time. Very cool idea.

You know, lately I've had cravings for caramel flan. Hmmm...

John Newman said...

Sarah! I'm so glad to find you, here. I've really been enjoying your Hollywood Flakes blog. (OK, everyone, head over to and you'll see what I mean.)

I like porridge with brown sugar and raisins, too. In fact, my 'day job' sent me to Las Vegas several months ago and I ordered that very thing for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It’s the most money I’ve ever paid for ‘mush’ in my life. :P