Food to Comfort our Minds & Souls

Have you noticed how similar dating and job hunting are? Not that I have dated a lot in the past few years, but I do have a recollection of what it feels like. The joy when the person you like asks you out on the first date; the preparation (“What am I going to wear? What am I going to say? How should I present myself?”); the joy if the first date goes well. The “how come he has not called me yet?“; the second thoughts (“Maybe it did not go so well after all, it’s true that he actually didn’t talk that much. I was all over the place. Oh my god, I was pathetic after all.“)
And then the renewed joy when he calls back, the pressure that builds on you for the second date: “That’s when I need to score. That’s when I need to impress the guy“. And then the preparation. The talks with girlfriend, the “I have to wear something different from last time. What should I be? Corporate yet sexy? Sexy yet corporate? Funny yet focused? Ironic & realistic yet enthusiast?
The dialogues in your head (or even out loud, yes) . Of course you are the wittier funnier sexier yet corporate ever. Insomnia the night before. Butterflies in your stomach the morning of. And then comes the second interview. Well, second date, sorry.Your mouth is really dry, despite the four gums you’ve been chewing for the past three hours and the bottle of water you drank. You can’t talk. Everything you’re trying to say sounds like a pathetic rumble. Your Frrench accent ees strronger zan ever. Seriously, was that a joke I was trying to make? And there you are. Date is over. Interview is done. Your ex-future husband/ex-future boss is no doubt convinced that he made the biggest mistake in his life when accepting a second interview / granting a second date – or vice versa.

What on earth is she talking about? You’re asking yourself. This is a food blog here, not a sexandthecity/monster kind of blog. But you’ll see where I am getting at: for all this job searching has triggered a frequent and nagging need of comfort food. And I am pretty sure that, in this city of lonely souls and high unemployment, I am not the only one. So I thought it might help me, and my gazillions of lonely/unemployed readers to understand what it is that makes a dish comforting.

So here’s my stab at it. This will be my new category – my own little research on comfort food. First of all, let’s define the subject at hand.

Comfort food – i.e. food supposed to make you feel better. But let’s add one limit, just now (and this, after lengthy discussions with Fabrice on the definition and limits of comfort food). Let’s indeed, first focus on food that comforts your soul, not your body. Je m’explique: Fabrice and I agreed (and also Christian, who’s been a great help here) that there are two different types of occurrences when one might need comfort food:

1. When your body aches. For us thirty-something-with-no-kid, this most often happens when we are hangover. OR, when you have the swine flu and miss your mommy (don’t tell me this never happened to you).

2. When your mind or soul hurts. For example, when you’ve just been dumped. Or when you’ve just made a complete fool of yourself at a job interview. Or when you miss your mommy and daddy, alone on a Sunday night in an unfamiliar city.

Why, will you say, am I separating the two kinds? Well because comfort food will not answer to the same needs. In 1. comfort foods caters to a physiological need. In 2., comfort food answers to a psychological need.

So, let’s focus on the second one, and let me start by some rhetorical questions (which you gazillion readers of mine should feel free to answer nevertheless):

  • Is there an ultimate comfort food? or, rather, are there specific ingredients (and here I am thinking FAT, PASTA, POTATOES and CHEESE) which are universal comfort ingredients. OR – is comfort food completely and utterly cultural? OK – I think I know the answer to this one, but still…
  • Is comfort food mostly savory – or sweet?
  • Can comfort food be found in a restaurant? Or is comfort food quintessentially homemade?
  • Is comfort food comforting because it reminds you of happy moments in your life? La madeleine de Proust, quoi.

I won’t answer these questions today. But these will no doubt guide my thinking, which I will happily share with you in the next few weeks.

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10 responses to “Food to Comfort our Minds & Souls

  1. thestudiouscook

    quintessentially homemade and savoury for me. Comfort food is wholesome and satisfying and probably made by grandma. Just a few criteria for me:)

  2. This is written so well! funny and insightful …thanks, s

  3. Very interesting and extremely well written. Cant wait for the next bit! 🙂

  4. Thats so true, dating is just like a job interview. Thank god i dont do either any more LOL.
    I have heard it said that comfort food is food that reminds you of your childhood. That means it could be anything. For me, my mom was never a cook, so my comfort food is food that is eaten outside. Usually something hot and fried. That explains the width of my thighs i think.

  5. The need for comfort must be going around. My brother lives in Brooklyn and he is tirelessly job hunting. I can’t do much to help so I sent him some food like a care package to comfort him. It worked, so I am glad you can re-charge your own soul with cooking.

  6. Nice writing – sounds like you’ve found your true calling 🙂

  7. Thanks to all for your sweet comments. And Heavenly Housewife: interesting! I guess you’re right, there is definitely a childhood element to comfort food. My mother did cook quite a lot and we didn’t go to the restaurant often. And for me a homemade pates au gratin (mac&cheese) would bring me much more comfort than something eaten outside. But we definitely share the love for FAT.

  8. Pingback: Rosewater, Park Slope – Do’s and Dont’s « Oeufs Mayo

  9. What a great post – it’s all soooo true!

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