Monday, October 2, 2017

Around the Kitchen Table -- Comfort Food


LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  The seasons are changing, and with it, what we eat. No more fresh peaches or berries. Up here in the north, the pots of herbs are coming inside, there's a colander filled with the last tomatoes on the counter, and the deer and bears have left a few apples on our ancient Red Delicious tree. It's the season for comfort food.

A few years ago, a friend went into rapture, fantasizing about a fresh ragu -- an herby tomato sauce -- simmering on her stove, and called it the ultimate comfort food. I laughed -- to me, the ultimate comfort food is mac 'n cheese, smooth, creamy, maybe with a few herbs and toasted breadcrumbs for crunch, but none of the spicy bursts of flavor of a rich tomato sauce. I gave that conversation to my girl Erin in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, but she plays the part of the surprised Italian girl who goes to college and discovers that to others, comfort food was grilled cheese, custard, or bread pudding. Pumpkin muffins. Breakfast for dinner. (I swear, I was probably 40 when it occurred to me that my mother made pancakes and sausage for dinner occasionally not as a treat for the kids, but because she needed a little mothering herself!)

What says comfort food to you, dear readers? Include your email address in your comment for a chance to win a terrific Mystery Lovers' Kitchen tote bag! (US and Canada addresses only, please.)



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Daryl: I've made it very clear, Leslie, in post after post that grilled cheese and mac and cheese say comfort to me.  I love adding all sorts of goodies to both. To grilled cheese? Avocado, bacon, shrimp. To mac and cheese, bacon. When is bacon not a comfort food?  I adore meatloaf packed with herbs and onions. This simply reminds me of my mother. She made a dynamite meatloaf, and her recipe (tweaked) is still what I use. My husband loved my meatloaf. And last but not least, ice cream! Any time of the day and night. I don't care how cold it is outside. I love ice cream. Which is probably why I like to make it. I love the sound of the churn. I love the aroma of vanilla and whatever else I add to the ice cream. And I like the way ice cream "chills" my stomach. It's like a
natural "anti-inflammatory."  LOL  Ah, comfort food. Do we need autumn and winter to enjoy it? Nope. Year-round comfort food is definitely a necessity.


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Sheila: When I started thinking about my go-to comfort foods, I realized I had a few semi-scientific pieces of evidence. I've been collecting recipes and cookbooks for a long time, and the first clue is to look at my well-used cookbooks and find the pages with the most grease stains. My first copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking has quite a few pages like that, mainly for beef and chicken dishes. (I could use the same test on the cookbooks I inherited from my mother: the recipe for chocolate sauce in her 1948 edition of Fanny Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cook Book may lead the pack.)

But a more important clue is how often I've made a particular dish over the years, no matter what the source. For that one, I think Apple Goody stands out. It's a recipe that comes from the mother of one of my long-ago roommates, back in the 1970s. I knew her mother for years, and I still get together regularly with my friend. The recipe is simple: apples, cinnamon, flour, sugar (brown and white) and butter. Bake and enjoy. I can't begin to count the number of times I've made that, both for guests or to take to a pot-luck, or just to eat myself. I even included it in one of my Orchard Mysteries.

So while the collected works of Julia Child are dear to my heart, Apple Goody is the all-time winner.


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Linda:  When I think of something comforting, I think of my Mom. I may have mentioned that she wasn't a great cook but what she made was all we needed, or thought we needed, at the time. So I'd say my comfort food is applesauce. She'd make it from scratch and I can still remember the wonderful aroma that filled the kitchen. She'd team it up with pork chops or baked beans. Often, when I wasn't feeling well, it would be an entire meal in itself. On toast, was also a good choice.
 It makes me think of being tucked up in a soft bed under a warm comforter or sitting on the couch while a storm rages outside. Of course, I'm always eating in these thoughts -- applesauce, it would seem.

I have to admit, I've never made applesauce but obviously, with such good memories attached, I should make the effort real soon. Maybe you can supply me with a tasty recipe, Sheila! 



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Krista: Linda, I remember my mom grating apples as a home remedy when I was a kid. She made applesauce, too, but it's the raw grated apples that I recall because I never could figure out why they were supposed cure anything.

Mac and cheese is a favorite comfort food for me. We never had it growing up. Never!  I don't often make it now, but I do love that creaminess.

Like Daryl, I'm a complete fool for ice cream, but mostly in the summer. As the weather cools, my consumption drops off until the special flavors come around for the holidays. Peppermint anyone?

But I'll go out on a limb here and suggest something that I have been known to whip up very late on cold nights-warm chocolate pudding. Pudding is fine when it's cold, but there's nothing quite as soothing as warm pudding, eaten straight from the pot.  


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Peg: Like Krista, we never had mac and cheese growing up! I don't really remember any comfort foods from my childhood--the association is really with things I make now like shepherd's pie and sauce bolognese and pretty much any kind of soup except tomato (which I don't care for!).  I could eat a whole bowl of mashed potatoes for dinner--that's comfort to me.  And pair them with roast chicken, and I'm in heaven!  

Lucy: I love love macaroni and cheese, but eating salty stuff is a no-no for me right now. On Sundays as a kid, we had cheese toast, baked beans, and potato salad on TV trays in front of whatever program was on--that's comfort food to me. All those carbs! These days, how about a nice peach or cherry cobbler, right out of the oven, with whipped cream?? Or a chicken pot pie?

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Victoria:  I find this whole discussion very comforting.  Food in general offers comfort to me, but there's something special about the smell of fresh bread or biscuits, warm from the oven and served up with butter. I love it when they area bit savory, like these with chives. There should be a pot of tea nearby and someone to chat with, over the warm biscuits.





Cleo: All of your comfort foods sound good to me! I'll add homemade cookies to that list...
Angel Wings (aka) Italian Bow Tie Cookies
For the recipe, click here.




As a little girl, I loved helping my Italian-born Aunt Mary make what she called "Italian Bow Tie" cookies. Some of you may remember them as "Angel Wings" or Chrusciki (the Polish version). In Hungary, they are called Csöröge. In France, Bugnes Lyonnaises. In the Ukraine, Verhuny. In any language, they are delicious and sweet comfort for those of us who remember eating them as children.

May you, too, eat with comfort and joy!






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What says comfort food to you, dear readers? 





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