Comfort food is really an ironic phrase. All food brings comfort: comfort from hunger, comfort from fatigue, comfort from the hot or cold. But sometimes we use food to comfort ourselves from emotion. And when we do we usually require very specific things.
When I think of comfort food I think of homemade macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, starchy food stuffed with butter and oozing with cheese or juice. Southern food, but not the southern food that I grew up eating. I think of pudding, chocolate chip cookies and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.
For me, comfort comes in strange forms: rice (brown or white) with lots of butter and salt. Toast, well done with lots of butter and honey or strawberry jam. Milkshakes, vanilla and just starting to melt. All white, relatively plain foods but with a good dose of fat.
I eat comfort food when I am sad or not feeling well. Sometimes there is no reason for the sadness, I just feel puny (What a wonderful word puny is! I imagine myself a flower faltering in the wind or rain. I'll make it, but it might be hard.) Plain food calms my stomach, calms my nerves. Some say it is boring. They suggest Vietnamese soup or Jewish chicken soup or grilled cheese. But even these are too fancy. I like simple things that in their diminutiveness remind me to pay attention to whatever is eating at me and keeping me from feeling well.
Sometimes I eat comfort food when I have lost my appetite. This is truly a sad state of affairs. But there is nothing like a bowl of hot buttered rice to bring me back to life. On dark, sad January nights I have been known to eat one bowl and then another. Perhaps it is the only nourishment besides toast and vanilla flavored cream I have had all day. It feeds my soul.
Last night I ate brown rice with liberal butter and grey salt harvested off the coast of Brittany. Not feeling entirely blue and hoping for some sort of revitalization, I heaped the rice with steamed fresh green beans, red cherry tomatoes and pine nuts (yes, also dressed with butter and salt). The combination of my tried and true comfort food and the life bestowed by fresh picked veggies did the trick, I am happy to report.