Metatalktail Hour: Aid and Comfort July 16, 2022 2:20 AM   Subscribe

Happy Metatalktail Hour, chat fans! This week I'd like to ask you about your comfort food(s): what are they, and why are they comforting? Something from your childhood, or just a taste / texture that is somehow soothing or reassuring? Are there rules for comfort foods? Only certain colors? Is crunch allowed? Required? Do you ever acquire *new* comfort food, or is it The One True Nosh forever?

How much do comfort foods vary by region or country, or by age / generation? What do you think the most popular "comfort food" in the world is? Do you think your comfort food is mainstream, or a little off the wall? Is there ritual involved in your comfort food (must be served in a certain dish, or arranged in a certain way)? Is ease of access or preparation an important aspect of comfort food? Inquiring tastebuds want to know!
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 2:20 AM (77 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Hmmm ... just clicking around on Twitter, and discovered that Kate Bush might be my new comfort food.

(Also from this poster, another tweet pertinent to our interests: "Just read about the Japanese word kuchisabishii which is used to describe the feeling when you’re not hungry but you eat because your mouth is lonely, and I don’t think I’ve ever loved a word more.")
posted by taz (staff) at 3:09 AM on July 16, 2022 [12 favorites]

Currently: Marks and Spencer Dark Chocolate Jaffa Cakes. Definitely a comfort food and a luxury, and since the first bite of the first one I've never been able to eat a "regular" jaffa cake.

Childhood: I used to eat maltloaf, the Soreen squishy fruitloaf thingie, for breakfast every day, but most of my diet was pretty healthy. Plums and apples from our orchard, strawberries when in season, blackcurrant jam.

+ + + + +

However, here in the UK (and mostly England) my diet will consist mainly of sipping chilled non-alcoholic drinks for the next few days. That's because we are forecast a record-breaking heatwave and ... it's going to be bad. 40C will be a record, and it looks like it'll be pretty darned hot for several days across a large part of England.

(Before the residents of certain countries swamp this thread with "gee, that's nothing, in Texas it's 135F before breakfast in March" etc. - this is the UK. Where it's humid, the housing stock is often of poor quality when it comes to temperature regulation, air conditioning is the exception rather than the rule, the infrastructure cannot cope with any temperature extremes, and the healthcare system is already under a great strain. If the forecasts bear out, then simply a lot of people will suffer, and worse, between now and wednesday.)

And on that cheery note: see you on the other side. Hopefully.
posted by Wordshore at 4:16 AM on July 16, 2022 [17 favorites]

Matzo ball soup. I think “matzo ball soup as comfort soup” needs no explanation, but for me the sources of comfort are:
-it’s soup!
-carbs with wonderful texture
-the ritual of making it
-the connection to my Jewish identity (which is more tenuous than I’d like)
posted by obfuscation at 4:53 AM on July 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Creamy textures & flavours are my ultimate comfort food. Double cream, clotted cream, cream cheese, panna cotta, crème brûlée, a whole ball of mozzarella di bufala eaten on its own. It's the single biggest thing that keeps me from being vegan, which would suit me more (ethically speaking) at this point in my life - they just haven't quite nailed the lacto-creamy flavour profile (of brie, as an example) in dairy substitutes yet. I do eat a lot of vegan ice cream & oat-based cream subsitutes because they sit better digestively for my partner, and they're pretty good, but the superiority of the real stuff always surprises on the rare occasions I indulge. I'm getting slightly more lactose intolerant myself as I get older, and it's sad that the lower tract doesn't enjoy those foods as much as the mouth does. I just want to ride the creamy tide.

I'm in the red alert corridor for risk of death even in healthy adults from the heatwave Wordshore mentions above, and last night I happened to try a super refreshing drink for the first time that I suspect is gonna see me through the next few days. I kept seeing Instagram posts about a drink that's purportedly trending in China, where you steep a green tea bag in Sprite overnight and then pour it over passionfruit pulp & ice, and I finally got around to making it yesterday. It's not too sweet and the flavour is super complex and interesting from the green tea; overall it came out like a tropical-flavoured iced tea with some pleasingly bitter notes. I'm going to make it again tonight with a green tea bag that's also mango & lychee flavoured, and once I run out of fresh passionfruit I'm tempted to get a cocktail pouch of passionfruit puree. Endless possibilities. So delicious.
posted by terretu at 5:13 AM on July 16, 2022 [10 favorites]

Dirtbag pantry ramen has become my go to comfort food over the last year. Cook just the naked noodles from a packet of ramen, drain out all the water. Pour in sesame oil, soy sauce, a spoonful of peanut butter, and your fave sriracha-like hot sauce til it's nice and goopy. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top to feel fancy.
posted by phunniemee at 5:35 AM on July 16, 2022 [11 favorites]

Like terretu, it's the creamy stuff: chick and dumplings, homemade caramels, grilled cheese sandwiches with Dijon mustard, ice cream, and just plain cheese.

Usually savory over sweet but not always.

My mom mailed me a batch of caramels last Christmas, and I stretched them out for six months!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:44 AM on July 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

(bonus tip for people who like both dirtbag ramen and creamy: you can melt a couple of slices of processed cheese into the ramen just before it's done cooking - I'm about to do that right now)
posted by terretu at 5:48 AM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

My comfort food might come as no surprise, it's right in my username! お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki) probably also needs no explanation as comfort food. A savory cabbage pancake with a gooey interior cooked on top of crispy pork belly and covered in mayonnaise and sweet brown sauce is about the most comforting of foods for me. Although I like mixing it up, truth be told I usually just make it without any extras, and savor the essential okonomiyaki-ness.

When I was growing up my parents would drive us to Mitsuwa, which was kind of far away and so bit of a pilgrimage. My dad would make us okonomiyaki that night, and it was always a special occasion. I rediscovered my love for it about 8 years ago when a group of friends frequented Bar Chuko, the offshoot izakaya location of the ramen shop in Brooklyn. Everything on that menu was incredible, but for me the star of the show was really the okonomiyaki, which they would serve with these extra large katsuobushi flakes which would wave and curl from the heat from the grill as they brought it to your table. Bar Chuko is closed now, and that friend group has all left the city, but I look back on those nights of drinking and eating too much fondly.

Nowadays I can walk to a Japanese grocery store and get all the essentials I need but even cooking it regularly is still a special ritual, plus I use a cast iron pan so flipping it comes with some extra excitement. I've pulled off a vegan one, you barely need eggs at all because nagaimo is already a good binder, but I also found that Just Egg helps the consistency, and this Benevolent Bacon subs well for the pork belly (but don't overcook it). And Kewpie mayo even makes a vegan version now.
posted by okonomichiyaki at 5:55 AM on July 16, 2022 [14 favorites]

okonomichiyaki, just yesterday I made a special trip to Chicago Sushi for their tofu okonomiyaki! I'd been thinking about it for a week. Making it sounds like a wonderful comfort ritual.

Right now my comfort food is hummus or lentil dip. I am especially fond of ones that are ever so slightly gritty and taste a bit like dirt. Starchy things with earthy flavors, yeah.
posted by BibiRose at 6:11 AM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Cream of Wheat, the instant kind, made with milk in the microwave. (Sometimes I add wheat germ to replace the nutrients that are removed in the wheat refining process.) I’m still waiting for Big Nutrition to proclaim carbs the best thing to eat for perpetual good health, world peace, and climate change reversal.
posted by scratch at 7:07 AM on July 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

My most fond comfort food is, quite strangely, Zantarain's brand boxed "Spanish Rice" mix topped with imitation crab sauteed in butter. I haven't made it in a few years. I've tried to make a fancy version with homemade rice and real crab in the past, but it just isn't the same.

The other one is instant ramen with the water drained and made into a casserole-like-thing with added peas, cheese, and traditionally the cheapest possible sandwich meat. My family used to call it "great grandma's dish." She ate it constantly in her old age. Which is a little surprising, since she already had grandkids when packaged ramen was invented. I skip the meat today and add some more vegetables, but it is surprisingly comforting. (Real ramen is also good. But, not the same.)

I also have an unexplainable fondness for spam fried rice, despite not having actually eaten it as a kid. It's a comfort food I learned from other people as an adult. (I am struggling to obey the no-politics rule this week; which I understand and respect.)
posted by eotvos at 7:17 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

So, I hardly ever make this, but when I do, it's such a reminder of childhood. Just already-cooked macaroni skillet fried in butter, with plenty of salt. Chewy, a little crispy, buttery so it's hard to keep on the fork.
posted by rikschell at 7:21 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Fettuccine with pesto from a jar, sun-dried tomato strips ditto, fresh rocket or spinach stirred in and wilted slightly from the heat of the pasta and shaved parmesan on top.

I can't eat it often because although I use a pesto which has minimal garlic, it still has some, and the SDT are of course marinated in oil which I'm pretty sure has some garlic in it too. Garlic has unfortunate effects on me, but I love this pasta so much that sometimes I just have to make it anyway.

Also mint Maxibon, an Australian hybrid of half chocolate-covered ice cream and half ice cream sandwich. I adore them, even on a cold winter night like tonight.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:28 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

My most comforting comfort food is bland white carbs (rice or baked potato work equally well) with lots of butter and salt and pepper. In other contexts I like lots of flavors and textures and colors in my food, but for comfort, I want simple buttery goodness.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2022 [7 favorites]

So much of it is my mom's cooking. Usually about the textures.

My mom's lasagna, particularly as left overs. It's just her spaghetti sauce, low-moisture mozzarella, and lasagna noodles). The way the cheese and noodles fuse together when you reheat it+ the crispy corner bits.

Her gratin potatoes. That was a rarer dish. Her ancient mandolin sliced them to the ideal thickness and she cooks them to the perfect level of doneness. Plus cheese.

If we're talking non-mom food. Then cabbage is probably my next favorite comfort food. Cole slaw, sauerkraut, kapusta, okonomyaki.

For a while we lived near a place that had the best bloody Mary and coleslaw. The coleslaw was served as a shared side, not that tiny little two bite portion you frequently get. So I'd go and get the cole slaw and a bloody Mary or two after a rough day at work. That was my favorite non-mom comfort dinner.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Carbs are my comfort foods. Ice cream especially... Ben & Jerry's flavors Cherry Garcia, Strawberry Cheesecake and New York Super Fudge Chunk. When I'm stressed I like to eat crunchy carbs like chips or crackers. Doritos Dinamitas Chili Lime flavor in particular, or potato chips, or pretzels. Frequently eaten with french onion dip. A favorite comfort food meal would be spaghetti and mashed potatoes, covered in Ragu sauce. My blood sugar went to 400 just thinking about it.

Alas, I am diabetic and these foods do actually jack up my BG, so if I'm actively trying not to die (which is not as consistently as one might expect) I need to basically avoid everything I really like. I do have some comfort-ish safe foods, which are things I reach for regularly because I like them and they don't trigger any of the sensory issues I often struggle with. Lately I've been eating a lot of low-carb wraps made with turkey lunchmeat, shredded cabbage, mayo and mustard. It's tasty and I really enjoy the crunch from the cabbage. A thing I can generally eat when I need to eat but nothing sounds good is plain greek yogurt. Cottage cheese and strawberries is another staple. Green olives (the regular kind that come in a jar) are another snack I'll eat when I'm feeling fractious about food. The strong flavor satisfies my sensation-seeking, and they are reasonably filling. I've loved them since I was a little kid.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Kraft Mac & Cheese with a can of Hormel Chili dumped in. Eat the whole mess straight out of the saucepan.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:19 AM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

I hope England is okay through its heat wave. Are libraries air conditioned? They are in the US, and provide cooling stations, as well as municipal buildings and theaters. AC was quite rare when I was a kid, which made movies even more special.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

My comfort food is noodles with notbutter, poppy seeds, salt, pepper. Carbs, definitely. I don't eat dairy for reasons, but fell off the wagon recently with consequent health issues. It was so lovely having sour cream (horseradish dip) on a baked potato with notbutter.

A couple weeks ago, when the local strawberries were perfect, we had a strawberry shortcakefest, with sweet biscuits, coconut whipped cream, mango sorbet, and dairy options for the friends who eat them. Heaven.

I will be trying some dirtbag ramen, love the name, and fried macaroni and other lovely carbs.
posted by theora55 at 9:31 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Betty Crocker's Noodles Almondine.

Yes you can find recipes online, but I've never tried. Also recipes for her adjacent Noodles Romanoff? The latter may still be available; both staples of dinner when my parents took us on summer road trips, camping. Lunch was always at a restaurant somewhere but supper was prepared on the picnic table at the campground, by my mother on the kerosene stove, and served on paper plates. I remember well such a feast in Idaho, somewhere really remote, just mountains and pine trees. And a serving of warm, buttery flat noodles sprinkled with sliced almonds.
posted by Rash at 9:38 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Pasta and a cheese or alfredo sauce. The more cheese, the better. Nothing else. There's a place nearby that's known for it's huge pasta servings with lines down the street most nights, they make a 4 cheese pasta I could live on assuming I wanted to gain 300 lbs. But even a box of KD or a frozen mac and cheese meal will do in a pinch.
posted by cgg at 9:45 AM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Another: my mother's corned beef and cabbage, which I subsequently learned was actually a Maggie and Jiggs variant of corned beef and cabbage, made way more palatable to her little boys by the addition (in her recipe) of a top-crust composed of toasted bread cubes and American cheese.
posted by Rash at 9:46 AM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Grilled cheese sandwich.
posted by freakazoid at 9:46 AM on July 16, 2022 [5 favorites]

In an effort to eat healthier: I’ve been making upgraded Mac n Cheese. I prefer the Thick and Creamy, and I’m cheap so generic for $.34 at Walmart is good enough.

I then pull the crap noodles they come with, and swap them out for edamame spaghetti noodles. Always whole milk and real butter. Then season to taste with black pepper and garlic powder.

Fuck, it’s gooood. Garlic and pepper were something my babysitter back too many years to count started for fancy Mac n cheese.

I always mix the ingredients over low heat rather that relying on the heat from the noodles to melt the butter. I think this makes a difference as well. Or maybe it just feels that way.

The edamame noodles are high in fiber and protein, and lower in carbs than normal pasta. Decent amount of iron too. I can feel better eating my comfort food and not having it be empty calories. The green noodles are visually interesting in the yellow-orange cheese sauce, to say the least. It looks fancy.

But the kicker. The other day I spotted black bean spaghetti noddles at a grocer I don’t usually frequent. On sale, I gave them a try. Yum! Plus black noodles!

At one point, I realized I didn’t have enough of either the black bean or edamame noodles left, used both and now I had this visually striking, absolutely delicious, borderline healthy comfort food.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:07 AM on July 16, 2022 [8 favorites]

Cold weather: grilled cheese sandwich w/tomato soup. Baked potatoes. Mac & cheese (all butter, no milk) and cornbread, ideally with some kind of sausage or tofu tossed in.

Hot weather: cantaloupe with salt. Roasted barley tea.

Anytime: Pancakes for breakfast. Also: breakfast for dinner (usually eggs + potatoes with various additional veggies and some kind of toast or muffin).
posted by curious nu at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

When I'm sick, hot and sour soup. When I need emotional comfort, pasta - minimal toppings. I actually just last night blitzed up a little "pesto" (I didn't have pine nuts or anything to substitute for them) with garlic scapes, parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice and tossed that with some pasta. It was so easy and good. Ice cream, cake, and other baked goods are also big comfort foods for me. Banana or zucchini bread too.

I'm in the process of buying a house with the fiancé and his mom, and omg it is a capital-P Process. Things are moving along just fine, but there's so much emotion at every step and as an outsider to the family it's exhausting. We also happened to find the perfect property at the worst possible time. All of us are exhausted and short-tempered. It's all temporary though, and within a short amount of time I should be able to relax in my own inground pool 🤞
posted by Sparky Buttons at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2022 [10 favorites]

According to that ultimate bastion of truth and knowledge the Hitchhiker's Guide Wikipedia, comfort food "provides a nostalgic or sentimental value". By that definition I don't really have a comfort food, because neither my mother nor my grandmother were especially good cooks and food was never a central feature of my childhood.

But if the definition can be broadened to "my current favorite foods", then I can claim pretty much anything savory. Roast chicken, including the golden crispy crunchy salty skin. Potatoes in any form. A fat juicy burger with a slice of ripe real tomato, not the tasteless stuff you find in the grocery store. Grilled cheese sandwich with sourdough bread and sharp cheddar cheese, and a little Sriracha sauce to add some heat. Phở. Lasagna with tomato-meat sauce. Yellow grits with cheese. Fried eggs with still-gooey yolks. Ripe avocado with a sprinkle of salt. Pork roast - especially pernil, which is a garlicky Puerto Rican dish. Texas BBQ brisket, or any BBQ for that matter. In recent years I've discovered kimchi. Buffalo wings. Onion rings. These are a few of my favorite things.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:37 AM on July 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Also, "Dirtbag Ramen" sounds like the name of a character in a dystopian-sci-fi movie.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I am a salty savory carb person. My emergency food - too sad, sick, or weak to make anything else - is instant mashed potatoes. If I can manage it, I make it with Better Than Bouillon chicken or mushroom stock. It's important to get the instant potatoes in a box - they're JUST dehydrated potato without any of the weird powdered dairy add-ins that I'm pretty sure are already halfway to rancid at time of production. Also it's just super handy to have around, and is my preferred soup-thickener.

If I'm cooking, it's going to be boxed pasta-and-sauce or I might make similar from scratch. Usually ground beef added, or a bag of vegan beefy crumbles. And as someone said above - yes, whatever's left should be cooled in the fridge and then cut it into slices to fry in butter (or roll in panko and air fry). I often make ramen with various home-sourced components (I don't consider this especially dirtbaggy since this is normal application, at least in Korea, and do see youtube for lots of delightful suggestions), too.

If I'm ordering delivery, it's usually either hot and sour soup and whatever appears to be the gloppiest dish on the menu, usually orange or sesame chicken. But if I'm suffering respiratory malaise, it'll be Tom Kha Gai (or the butternut avocado chick'n curry if I order from the vegan Thai place) and laab that I have NOT specified "non-Thai mild".
posted by Lyn Never at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Honeycomb tripe stew.

The Korean grocery store next to me sells flatiron steak (cut the wrong way) for less than cubes of "stewing" beef. The connective tissue in the middle is actually really good slow cooked.

Chunk and throw it all in a slow cooker, a couple of tablespoons of chou hou, crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, a handful of sundried cuttlefish. Some corn starch and flour. Mix well. Chunked nantes carrots on top, beef stock to just below the carrots. Modern "keep warm" setting before leaving for work.

Freeze a couple of portions for emergencies.
posted by porpoise at 11:30 AM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

One more, from any American diner: a hot open-faced sandwich, gravy on the mash and extra gravy. Roast beef or Turkey, either's okay (but if it's the latter, don't omit the little paper cup of cranberry sauce).
posted by Rash at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

In silly news entirely unrelated to the theme, I just now woke up from a dream that I was having an argument via text message about flag emojis. My opponent was correct. Of course, in reality, I was both wrong and correct, 'cause it was my dream.

It is true my phone appears to have made text message notification sounds around 8 times while I was napping and that 75% of the text messages I've exchanged in the last 16 years have been in the last 3 months. . . but, who the hell dreams about using a thumb keyboard to argue about images of flags? I wish my brain would ask me for better dream ideas before wasting time on that kind of thing.
posted by eotvos at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

If I'm feeling poorly, or if someone near me is feeling poorly, then it has to be Egg in a Cup. It's a boiled egg (just slightly below hard-boiled: the yolk still needs to be orange and at least slightly gooey), peeled while hot, dropped into a cup, a little salt, some butter, then chopped into little bits with a knife. Eat with a teaspoon while feeling sorry for oneself. The clinking sound of someone chopping up the egg for you is one of the strongest tonics I know of, and I remember it from when my mum it for me over fifty years ago. ms scruss can attest to its restorative effect.
posted by scruss at 1:34 PM on July 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

As a Jersey boy, I have to say pizza. Preferably thin-crust Trenton style tomato pie, but any decent New York style will do as long as it doesn't have too much cheese, and it's well done enough. Also, the (apparently no longer on the menu) mjadra sandwich from Evelyn's Restaurant in New Brunswick, New Jersey. That sandwich could fix things that I didn't know were wrong with me.
posted by mollweide at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2022 [7 favorites]

Since I mentioned crappy grocery-store tomatoes earlier, I stopped by Trader Joe's and got a pack of their heirloom tomatoes (which if you haven't seen it is 2lbs of delicious ripe different-sized random heirloom varieties). I just quartered one of the smaller ones, sprinkled the pieces with salt, and ate them over the kitchen sink (as is fitting). Dear sweet cosmos was it good!! I followed it up with a couple of squares of dark chocolate from a TJ's "Pound Plus" bar; and the only think that could improve my mood beyond its current ecstatic state is the chilled-gin & tonic in my near future.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:06 PM on July 16, 2022 [7 favorites]

Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried okra and rolls to sop up any extra gravy. Such a common meal to have on the menu in my hometown but here in California it's impossible to find.
posted by downtohisturtles at 2:10 PM on July 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

My mom's homemade flour tortillas. I didn't realize just how unique that made my everyday diet growing up. She has taught me how--her muscle memory for this is perfection--but it's not the same as when she makes them. When I was there in October 2021 to help her prepare for a major surgery, she made me tortillas every day. Her homemade Mexican food is my gold standard.
posted by Kitteh at 2:15 PM on July 16, 2022 [14 favorites]

downtohisturtles - Chicken fried steak

!! What cut do you like, and how do you process it before dredging and frying? What do you prefer as the gravy base?
posted by porpoise at 6:14 PM on July 16, 2022

A bowl of popcorn. It's simple and easy and it's not that terrible is it?
posted by SPrintF at 6:54 PM on July 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

i have no idea. probably mom's mac & cheese (which i can do myself okay). better cold, later, solid enough to slice and eat with hands (or biting from a big irregular chunk suspended on a fork). lately that salty ramen-flavor-flavored water left for slurping when the noodles have gone. for feeling poorly i've found some serious comfort in a korean dish called yuk kye jjang or something like that, and several dishes featuring sichuan peppercorns.
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:21 PM on July 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Many different things depending on when. At this time of year, either stone fruit salsa with nectarines, plums, pluots and apricots in it or homegrown salsa verde. I made a big bunch of nectarine salsa for a friend gathering the other day and am putting it on/in everything. It tastes like summer and community and also spicy garlic from my garden.

I've had an extremely emotionally intense week and want to cope by throwing myself into a hot spring or digging a big hole or eating comething eye-watering spicy or various activities not to discuss in polite online community, but my seven-year-old is with me this weekend and I'm doing wholesome kid stuff instead. Challenging.
posted by centrifugal at 8:40 PM on July 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

cream of tomato soup. Nothing special, that's all.
posted by Dashy at 9:17 PM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

I like food so much it's difficult to choose.

Childhood favourite was baked potato with butter, sour cream and lots of coarsely ground black pepper. Despite my grandmother telling me that black pepper takes 7 years to digest.

When I have a cold, I love Tom Yum soup with prawn, as spicy as possible. My spice-heat tolerance is pretty high.

Other favourites: A very saucy calamari Salome, made with extra flaky Cape Town roetie and not pancake-like Durban roetie. With slap chips on the side.

Slap Chips with salt and vinegar. The best.

I used to love bobotie but I haven't eaten meat for 30 years so... And it's not easy to find a vegetarian version.

Melk Snysel, which is basically pasta and custard and cinnamon. My mother used to make it for me. Soft, sweet and warm.

Dark chocolate. Crystallised ginger. I get a strong buzz from them. Distinct mood lift.

Suger free, nutty muesli with fresh strawberries, papaya, banana, berries, full cream yogurt. Something in there gives me a rush similar to ginger and dark chocolate.
posted by Zumbador at 9:24 PM on July 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid, it was vanilla ice cream with Bosco syrup, late at night with my Dad. After college I had two roommates from Long Island and they introduced me to Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies – those soft & chewy little cookies got me through so much angst. Salted caramel ice cream with chocolate chunks soothed me through the Trump years and the pandemic. Now I’m on Weight Watchers (big surprise after all that chocolate) and I’m trying to find comfort in fruits and veggies. A couple times a month I treat myself to Drunken Noodles from Yupha’s Thai Kitchen – it has big chunks of tomato, onion, and cabbage, soft noodles, crispy tofu, and a sauce with so much flavor. It ticks off all my current boxes for comfort food even without chocolate.
posted by kbar1 at 10:44 PM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Egg and breadcrumbs: break a slice of stale bread into thumbnail sized pieces in a bowl. Break soft-boiled egg on top and mix until all bread bits are somewhat eggy. Add salt and white pepper if desired. Have it be made when you are sick, and served by your late father who you miss very much.
posted by Thella at 2:08 AM on July 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

My favorite food as a kid was Kraft mac and cheese, cream corn and applesauce, not mixed together, but all running into each other on the same plate or bowl, topped with Bacos (fake bacon bits). Sometimes eaten by scooping tortilla chips into it. It’s actually pretty good.
posted by snofoam at 5:47 AM on July 17, 2022

obfuscation: "Matzo ball soup.…the connection to my Jewish identity (which is more tenuous than I’d like)"
Yeah, hi.
posted by signal at 8:47 AM on July 17, 2022

It's black eyed peas and rice for me. I could eat it at least once a week for the rest of my life and never get tired of it.
posted by saladin at 9:07 AM on July 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Cube and melt some velveeta, mix in some salsa, heat a little more, and eat with tortilla chips. Pretty much no redeeming qualities other than it's so so good. More than once in grad school it was dinner after a late night in the lab.
posted by bowmaniac at 9:21 AM on July 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

mac n cheese mmmmmac n cheese (kraft? homemade? fettucine alfredo? yes!)
posted by supermedusa at 9:22 AM on July 17, 2022

Savory steel cut oats. Toast/sauté in butter at low heat until fragrant. Add double the volume hot from the kettle. Cover and simmer until water is absorbed. Grate a goodly amount of hard cheese and stir. (If I'm feeling energetic, sear three thinly sliced mushrooms in the pan before the oats-butter stage and stir back in at the end).
posted by Jesse the K at 10:30 AM on July 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Savory steel cut oats.

Speaking of which, I cobbled together a savory Asian-inspired breakfast bowl the other day that I enjoyed way more than I expected to. As I get older I need to make sure I get enough fiber and protein, but I've never been a huge fan of oatmeal. I'd been making it with almond butter, walnuts, and sliced banana, and that's pretty good, but in pursuit of variety I was looking for an alternative. I pulled this together out of the blue one morning; I was ready to toss it out if it didn't work but was happily surprised by the result:

Put 1/4 Cup of oats and a couple teaspoons of whey powder (for protein) in a microwave-safe bowl and mix until the powder is distributed and not in clumps. If you like, throw in a few smaller pieces of dried mushroom (such as shiitake or portobello) to reconstitute as the oats cook.

Add a little more than 1/4 Cup of water and stir to combine.

Microwave on 50-60% power for a minute or so until the oats are done - I like mine just a little chewy, but if you like them softer let them cook another minute. Note: the whey powder can make it bubble over, if that starts to happen open the oven and give it a couple stirs before continuing. Add a little water if it looks too dry.

Pull the bowl out of the oven and mix in a spoonful of crunchy garlic in chili oil (NOT the spicy kind) and a spoon or two of miso paste depending on how salty you want it. Add hot sauce if desired.

Dig in!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:42 AM on July 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Darn it, I forgot to mention adding a touch of sesame oil along with the garlic chili and miso at the end!

It also occurred to me that something similar could be done with leftover rice, except:

- reconstitute the dried mushroom separately first

- fry the rice in some oil or butter on the stove (instead of microwaving in water like the oats)

- leave out the whey powder...maybe replace it with eggs or cubed browned tofu or meat/seafood

Just be sure to add the sesame oil and miso after the cooking is done, to preserve their delicate flavors.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:32 PM on July 17, 2022

I know that traditional American comfort foods tend to be carbohydrate-heavy, cheese-laden, sweet, and/or some combination of soft, somewhat bland and redolent of childhood, rather than special occasion comestibles. But for me, raw fish-- prepared in either sushi or sashimi formats-- always makes me happy. Take me out for sushi and I feel love... and loved.
posted by carmicha at 1:46 PM on July 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

My dad died recently. He had been living with a chronic illness for some time. Mr. e and I traveled to see my mother, and we have been eating things that remind me of him. When he was well, he loved steak and seafood, vanilla ice cream and apple pie, and lots of chocolate. He was a beer drinker at family parties, but when I was in college he would take me out to my favorite place in Little Italy and he would order chianti. Last night, we got takeout from the very nice American restaurant in their neighborhood. We didn't have any beer or chianti on hand, but we toasted his memory with a scallop.

It doesn't feel real yet, even though I've known it was coming for so long. Death is so strange.
posted by eirias at 11:40 PM on July 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

When I was going through chemo, every cycle, as soon as I was able to eat again I wanted nothing more than my sister's baked macaroni and cheese. She always made sure there was a big pan of it in the fridge the right time of the month. I'd eat slices of it ice-cold.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:17 AM on July 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Biscuits and gravy.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:14 AM on July 18, 2022

Greg_Ace one of my long-term projects has been to find a diy recipe for S&B Umami topping. I made something tasty on my second attempt but not umami enough so I have mushroom powder and msg on my next shopping list.

also Chef Jon Kung on tiktok said you can make congee with steel cut oats so I tried it in my lugaw recipe and it's SO GOOD.
posted by brilliantine at 10:26 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I had a co-worker who once advised me: when someone says to you, "This is comfort food where I'm from" or "This is what my grandma made" or "My people eat this at barbecues or as street food" just have's the most fun to try.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:50 AM on July 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

S&B Umami topping ... mushroom powder and msg

MSG is the fourth ingredient on the list after oil, garlic, and chili, so yeah I'd imagine that would be a big part of it. But mushroom powder would be tasty too. I just recently discovered that product and I'm really enjoying finding new uses for it!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:56 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

My grandma makes a hotdish which she calls "Spanish rice". I asked about on the Green several years ago. The secret ingredient is carbs. All the carbs. It has rice, noodles, AND potatoes and it is delicious.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:35 PM on July 18, 2022

Greg_Ace ...mushroom powder

I use it basically anywhere that a good nutritional yeast can go. The ones I can get are a bit granular rather than flaky so has different adhering-properties.

Or anytime you want to add stock to something; dissolve in an appropriate amount of water and use as stock. Sundried Chinese/ shitake mushrooms is an essential base for a lot of Cantonese clear broths/ soups and a major ingredient in stews/ claypots.

The mushroom preparation reminds me a lot of better quality dashi (dried fish stock) granules.

As a popcorn topping, I find that I need to smash them a bit in a mortar first.
posted by porpoise at 9:49 PM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Pulverized popcorn?!?

(j/k, I know what you meant but the visual amused me)
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:33 AM on July 19, 2022

Regular ol' peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
posted by jquinby at 11:27 AM on July 19, 2022

If nothing else it's an easily achievable goal!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:31 AM on July 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Peanut butter and mustard (Gulden's spicy brown) sammie on Martin's egg bread.

Carvel soft chocolate cone or a vanilla flying saucer.

Slightly undercooked plain bagel from the bagel shop near my house.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:43 PM on July 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

the sweet spot for my comfort food is somewhere between memory and ease of preparation.

emotional comfort - noodles with a creamy sauce. my mom's 'stroganoff' recipe is the ideal, but as it was adapted from betty crocker into something that has only sour cream in common with actual stroganoff, I've never been able to reproduce the texture. There's some alchemy involving the pan drippings from the meat, the liquid from the canned mushrooms, flour and a bit of ketchup that I just can't manage. It was pretty much always what I asked for as my birthday dinner (the only day when the kid gets to set the menu).

hot weather comfort - cold hot dog, dill or sweet pickles, and cheese. When we used food stamps when I was little, hot dogs were one of the options that we could get a lot of. This was the lunch my mom gave me until sometime in grade school when kids started making fun of me for not having an actual sandwich. I defend my eating of cold hot dogs as it's just tubular lunchmeat, leave me alone. The cheese is now goat instead of kraft singles (because lactose), and sometimes I get the fancy pickles from the refrigerated section, but I still get the cheap hot dogs because only those ones taste right.

cold weather comfort - ramen made with egg stirred into the broth, and whatever fresh or frozen veggies I have around. If I'm lucky I can double the flavor packet (my roommate will make double noodles but leave out one packet of powder).

sick comfort - campbell's condensed chicken soup with stars, made with only half the prescribed amount of water for best results. No other soup is the right combo of salty broth and soft noodles. Or soft boiled egg on torn up white bread, but that takes more coordination that I can usually manage when I don't feel well.
posted by buildmyworld at 9:34 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, chicken and stars is my go to whenever my stomach is being wonky. I haven't had a microwave in a while, so if I'm dragging I'll heat water up in a kettle to mix in rather than dirty a whole pot.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:39 PM on July 20, 2022

Dog n Suds.
posted by clavdivs at 7:52 PM on July 20, 2022

We always had chicken and stars soup when we were sick, too. In our family, we always referred to it as “chicken and scars.” I guess I always thought the “scars” part was a reference to its role as food for invalids, but it was probably just a childhood mispronunciation that stuck.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:45 PM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also, my mother’s apple dumplings and baking-powder biscuits. Dad’s colleagues were always angling for dinner invitations, because Mom was well-known as a great cook, and more than once they dropped hints for those specific dishes. (Because we tended to drop final g’s in casual conversation, I assumed for years that there was bacon in the bakin’-powder biscuits.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:51 PM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hey, no reason* you couldn't throw some bacon in between the buttered biscuit halves... Yum!

*other than cardiac health, I mean
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:35 PM on July 20, 2022

chicken and stars

I haven't heard that name in a long, long time.
Now I kinda want some.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:57 PM on July 21, 2022

I haven't heard that name in a long, long time.

Well hold onto your light saber, Obi-Wan, 'cuz you're in luck!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:34 PM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't seem to remember ever owning a can opener.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2022

For a long time it was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was such an iconic Thing that once after I'd decided to do a stock-up-on-staples grocery run, my roommate came home as I was unpacking, saw the three cans of tomato soup on the table, and immediately came over, hugged me, and asked "what happened?"

These days the "I've had a really shitty day and I just want something easy" meal is pasta carbonara, made with regular bacon as opposed to pancetta because that's usually what I've got in the house.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:52 AM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm sure I've talked about this before, but growing up in a town with a large Catholic population meant that Friday school lunch was either fish or grilled cheese with tomato soup. They used government cheese in the sandwiches, so it melted well like American cheese but still had that Cheddary substance and flavor. And if you bought the reheated leftovers on Monday you got double portions. You wouldn't think grilled cheese would reheat well, but I swear these sandwiches were even better after having sat for a couple of days. I can taste it right now. There's probably still a bit sticking to my ribs.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:30 PM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

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