Comfort food is different things to different people. To some of us, it’s a heaping plate of macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes with gravy. For others, it’s grandma’s matzo ball soup or nonna’s spaghetti and meatballs. For me, though it’s tough to admit, the one food that makes me feel warm all over is a big, juicy burger and a side of fries. This meal, like no other, conjures up my fondest childhood memories.
There are certain foods that engender a response as primal as comfort. Food, like smell, has a way of transporting us back to another place and time. Whenever I make my grandmother’s banana bread, I’m reminded of sitting in her kitchen watching her bake amid clouds of flour and sugar, while the sweet smell of banana wafted from the oven. I can’t help but think of her when those smells fill my own kitchen.
Mini meatballs and bowls of onion dip remind me of my parents New Year’s Eve parties. The house was filled with family and friends, but this adults-only party required my sister and me to stay upstairs and out of sight. Begrudgingly, we would fill our plates with tasty treats and head up to watch Dick Clark and entertain ourselves. As the voices grew louder and louder, we’d eventually sneak downstairs for more food thinking that the adults were too distracted to notice. We always got caught of course. And after a mock stern look from my mother, we would head upstairs once again, sated and happy.
I have vivid memories of impromptu pizza and popcorn parties that always seemed to happen (at least to me) very late at night. My dad would sometimes work into the evening, and when he finally came home, he would make mini pizzas (tomato sauce and cheese on English muffins) and a big bowl of popcorn. I could always hear the popcorn begin to pop on the stove before the air filled with its savory scent. That was my cue to head downstairs. And sure enough, as my sister and I rounded the corner, two smaller bowls were waiting just for us.
The backyard BBQ, the turkey roasting in the oven – we can all recall celebrations and those everyday moments that included our favorite foods just as sure as we can picture the faces of the people we shared them with. This is all part of the tradition and ritual of sharing to begin with. Food connects us to one another. It feeds our souls as well as our bodies and nourishes the events in our lives.
If you love hamburgers, too, visit A Hamburger Today at aht.seriouseats.com