Those two words are pretty good independently, right?
But together… they take on a luster that is most likely appealing to every human. The neat thing is the way we interpret “comfort food” to meet our own distinct definition – unique to each of us and not necessarily even shared among notoriously close duos like spouses, siblings and crime-fighting partners. Our opinions on what constitutes comfort food are our very own.
The other neat thing is the way that food can deliver comfort.
I’ve long been a bit of a coffee shop rat, despite the fact that I was well into my third decade before I could even enter one and order properly… and receive a palatable drink. In high school in the Pacific Northwest, we “went for coffee” the instant we could transport ourselves. At first, this meant Denny’s. Egad. What a terrible start to a coffee career! This was mainly because – well, Denny’s is open all night – and the cool factor of coffee in the middle of the night because you can must be universally appealing to teens. The other option in Wenatchee, Washington circa the early 90s was Prospector Pies, but that’s a story for another day.
Fast forward through time in France developing affection for cafe au lait and the development of the ability to work – mostly producing words – in the chaotic but welcoming coffee shop environment, finding equal measures of inspiration and predictability in the regular characters. It started to become marginally more about the coffee every once in a while.
Here’s the point: the merits of sharing coffee and comfort and food are the most true and basic interpretations of the idea that in giving, we receive.
A young bachelor frequented our dinner table for several years. He is a married father now, but I like to think (and he has said) that meals shared with us influenced his ideas of marriage and parenting.
A solo neighbor who loves our kids like her own claims my coffee makes her day start perfectly. I suspect it is less my mystical (albeit very strong) brew and more the receptive environment and companionship, but I always make extra to share with her.
A harried mom juggling four kids and being the sole breadwinner stops off for an hour and a couple cups of coffee once a week. It’s food for our souls, even though it’s just water and grounds on the surface… it grounds us both.
The joy of cooking, baking, brewing and simply sharing must be the very truest definition of comfort food: comfort enhanced by food and the spirit of giving and receiving. The idea that hours slaving over the stove just to achieve a less than heartfelt thanks or impress someone is not the point, but unfettered giving and the exercise of training ourselves to think of someone else’s joy before our own is the point… and it pays exponential dividends.
I wish comfort food – both given and received – for you throughout this holiday season. Lose yourself in an extra loaf of banana bread or more coffee than you can drink alone during the darker months and reap the reward of remembering others. Remind yourself that – sometimes – there may be someone in your life who does not excel at communicating with you, but their seemingly meager effort to make you a meal you may not even want is the very deepest baring of their soul for you.
Here’s to comfort food.