Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comfort Food

I have been thinking about comfort food a lot lately. Not roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy or any traditionally defined comfort food. Rather, I have been thinking about what comfort food really means and the power of food to provide not only nutritional sustenance, but true comfort. We hold fast to the foods of our childhood, foods that represent stability and familiarity and the foods which have defined us culturally, regionally and personally. We crave these foods in moments joyous and desperate; centered and chaotic. Comfort food grounds us, reassures us and fills us with a sense of well being.

The power and complexity of comfort food was brought clearly into light this past year as my wife, young children and I relocated across country. For perhaps the first time in our lives all the things which comfort food represents were absent. We were ungrounded, fractured, and in a state of disequilibrium with no friends or family and faced with new challenges and fears. What struck me then and has stayed with me, was how absolutely critical comfort food became in that period of crisis. And more surprising was the food that made us whole again. In this moment of extreme transition we began searching, scouring our new neighborhood and city for food. With a refrigerator yet to be purchased, we searched for restaurants - not for the best restaurants with the most acclaimed chefs, but for welcoming, comfortable places with food that soothed our minds and bodies. Far from the traditional staples of comfort food, my children found refuge in steaming bowls of succulent Udon noodles from the Rainbow Korean restaurant. My wife found grounding in the scorching hot pot of Bibimbap from Choga. And I have found many evenings of contentment enjoying a hot plate of crisp fish and chips and a pint or two of wonderful beer at the local 75th Street brewery. Our fast food fix was centered around the delicious Bacon Cheddar Burger at Culvers our grocery needs were met by the beautiful Cosentino’s Market in Brookside and the Brookside Farmer’s Market and our dessert cravings were taken care of by the great pastry chefs at Andres and Dolce bakery. What each of these places and food items represents is not just good food and friendly people, but islands of peace, fulfillment and yes, comfort in what was a turbulent sea of change and instability. Our family is now settled in our new city, healthy and happy and we have discovered many of the great culinary treasures to be found here. Yet, we still return to the small, welcoming restaurants, friendly faces, and soul soothing food that first made us feel at home and then made us whole.
Each of us has our own "Comfort Food," share your ideas of comfort food in the comment section. Please use anonymous if you are not a member. Thank you!

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