We live in difficult times. Because we are wired the way we are, when we are stressed, we turn to foods that feel comfortable, reassuring and safe. Some people turn to soft, creamy things like macaroni and cheese, or ice cream, or oatmeal. “Mom Food” is what others want: meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or chicken and noodles, or chili. We turn to our country of origin when we need reassurance, as well.
I have a friend who cooks up big Malaysian dinner parties whenever she feels like she’s wigging out. She says it makes her feel calmer if her house smells like chili and ginger and coconut for a couple of days. For me, reassuring food is anything warm that I can eat from a bowl using a spoon. It gets double points if it’s salty and doesn’t require much chewing. Triple points if I get to eat it in bed.
For me as a kid, the ultimate comfort food was always a grilled cheese sandwich with Campbell’s tomato soup. This is fairly common, I know. I was fed this meal every time I got sick (the milk and cheese just made me stuffier, but who knew that then?) and I associate it with being cared for. I got really sick last winter and made it for myself, out of nostalgia I suppose. The cheese sandwich was great—white bread and butter and Kraft singles—but the soup from a can made me feel sort of sad. I’m soup spoiled, I know, but my idea of the canned soup was so much better than the reality of it. I threw it out and ate another cheese sandwich instead.
For my husband, comforting food is pizza. Pepperoni pizza is his favorite. I can tell when he’s had a particularly stressful concert tour when I see more than five pizza boxes hidden in the recycling. We love Knolla’s Pizza for big, American-style pies that are covered with melty cheese and tons of toppings. They have east- and west-side locations that make getting your fix on fairly easy. Knolla’s is family-run and always busy. We call in and order take-out, so Wayne can eat on the porch, and I can share sausage bits with Olive the Pug on the bed, and the teenager can let his crusts calcify on top of his Xbox.