A love letter to comfort food
Here’s something I remember from when I was sixteen or so: coming home from school and throwing myself onto my bed. It was pouring down with rain and it was a cold evening – the kind of cold that makes your bones ache. I’d had a horrid day at school and a splitting headache, too. I’d worked really, really hard on a piece of work and gotten a bad mark. It all sounds a bit silly now, but I remember feeling so disappointed and cross with myself. I’d also fallen out with a friend so was teary and shattered. All I wanted to do was to go straight to bed and forget the day had ever happened.
Half an hour or so after my crying fit, my mum softly opened my door. “Honey? I’ve made your favourite for tea. Toad in the hole.” I was obsessed with toad in the hole growing up. If you haven’t had it before, it’s basically sausages in a giant Yorkshire pudding with lashings of gravy and veg, too. In that moment, my mum didn’t need to say anything or do anything else – the offering of my favourite dinner said more than words could. It said, I’m sorry you’ve had a terrible day. I’ve made something for you that I know you love. I hope this will make you feel better.
The terms ‘comfort food’ or ‘comfort eating’ have had a bit of bad rap over the past couple of years. Wellness bloggers, fitness gurus and health magazines often equate comfort food with ‘bad’ food. It’s something that should be avoided – something seen as unhealthy. I don’t see things like that at all.
For me, comfort food is a source of joy and pleasure. It’s food that gives you that feeling; familiarity. It’s linked with people, memories and growing up. I can’t ever eat a slice of sponge cake without thinking about my grandfather, who always chose it over birthday cake.
Do you ever get that feeling when you come home after a long day, you’re starving hungry and there’s only one meal that will make you feel right again? Yep, that’s the comfort food feels. The best bit? With every bite of lasagne/curry/spaghetti bolognese you can feel yourself shaking off the day and smiling as you slurp up your favourite dish.
That’s why I love asking people about their go-to comfort foods. My best friend’s favourite thing to eat when she’s feeling down or stressed is a Jamaican dish from her childhood; ackee and saltfish with fried dumplings. My mum’s comfort food is Irish soda bread that her mum used to make for her when she was growing up. Another friend’s comfort food is a simple jacket potato oozing with golden cheese and baked beans.
And right there is the reason that comfort food is named as such. It is a balm for tough times. For rainy days. For sick days. For days when things are just a little bit much. It lifts spirits and gives a silver lining to an otherwise cloudy day. And that can never be a bad thing, right?!