Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Comfort Foods

I love food. I really do. I love trying new foods and cooking new foods and eating new foods. But there are definitely a few choice meals or food items that I tend to whip up or go out and buy when I need that special comfort that only a familiar, long-loved, or uniquely flavoured dish can provide. Obviously, this is dependent on mood, location, and availability. Sometimes you need to get creative to create a familiar comfort food, and sometimes you just have to go without and try to find a replacement. One of those downsides to living overseas, unfortunately. Certain things are just NOT the same or NOT available outside their country of origin. Peanut butter in Europe is so NOT the same. The mangoes, papaya and coconuts in Mexico are 1,000,000 times better here than in the US or Europe. The Bread in Mexico is so lacking in the French bakery tradition that is available all over Europe. And my beloved Wheat Thins are sadly only available in the USA, but somehow Ritz have made the leap into both Mexico and the UK…I don’t understand. Mmmm now I want some Wheat Thins…But I digress…

So, comforting foods. Many of these are from my childhood/life at home with my family.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. Baked in the oven, no creamy cheese sauce or breadcrumb topping here. Just noodles, a few different cheeses, salt and pepper, baked until the top is crispy and the insides are gooey. Usually served with a sizzling baked bit of kielbasa and some mustard on the side. YUM! Just like my Mom makes. This is my favourite way to have macaroni and cheese and I make it a lot during the cold Edinburgh winters.

Pizza. I’m sure you all know that my Dad has to have his homemade (sometimes ordered in) pizza every Friday. I can’t handle it every Friday, but sometimes I really crave a good homemade or restaurant pizza, and I’m sure I can thank Dad for that one. Although I prefer my pizza topped with loads of veggies and no meat, maybe getting crazy with some caramelized onions, butternut squash and blue cheese, which is where Dad and I differ.

Grandma’s Spring Rolls. Something my Grandma Sigmund always made, a recipe I believe she picked up in Asia when she lived overseas. I prefer my spring rolls baked, the way my Mom always made them, as opposed to Grandma’s penchant for frying them, but the filling of spicy sausage, Chinese cabbage, bean sprouts, soy sauce and fish sauce is always the same. This is one of those things that makes me re-think my newly minted vegetarianism…

Homemade potato bread. Also a Grandma and Mom-thing. SO flipping delicious you wouldn’t believe it. Toasted with butter or peanut butter, it’s the best breakfast or snack ever!

Mjaddara. This is courtesy of my lovely friend Yara, a Lebanese comfort food that she made for us once when we lived together in Edinburgh, which I love to make and eat in the winter. Lentils and rice cooked together with sautéed onions, cumin, salt and pepper. Topped with more sautéed or fried onions, served with labneh (Lebanese strained yogurt) and a salad of cabbage and tomatoes dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. It is amazingly delicious, and a great contrast with the salad.

Banana Bread or Carrot Cake. I stopped eating sugar back in September, now only eating it once every blue moon. But if there is ever a crap day where I feel the need for some sugary comfort, I’m usually craving a good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting or a warm banana bread with chocolate chips. Also childhood favourites that have stuck with me through the years, and carrot cake is almost always my birthday cake of choice.

So there you go. Many of these foods are family faves. It’s funny how certain things and tastes we have never change over time, while others do. And certain foods can bring you back to a different time and place, usually with happy memories attached. Which is probably part of the reason they are called ‘comfort foods’ (although I think the direct correlation of carbohydrate to comfort must be scientific fact). The funny thing is, I have not been able to make almost all of these items during my time in Mexico. I have no oven in my flat here (I know, it’s ludicrous!) so Mjaddara, made on the stovetop is the only homemade comfort food I have. The sacrifices we make for fieldwork…

All I can say is that I am definitely looking forward to some of these foods when I go back to Cali for my short layover before heading back to Scotland…Hint, hint Mom and Dad. ;-) 

Kim x

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