Whenever I've heard people talk about comfort food, I've felt on the outside. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it means that I don't turn to food to comfort myself. Maybe it's helped me stay thin.
But they would go on so glowingly about mac-n-cheese or ice cream or other luscious, sumptous foods, that I had to wonder why I hadn't found any bowls of comfort along the way that could soothe me immediately upon consumption. Then again, I hadn't comforted myself at all in the past, with anything. I just forged on through sheer determination.
But now, with my masochistic days waning, I think I've finally had my first comfort food experience.
Somewhere during Thursday afternoon, my blood sugar began dropping and my eyelids began drooping. Just as I determined that a snack would be necessary, my husband called and wanted to be picked up from work early, since he wasn't feeling well. I dashed off to rescue him and tried to subsist on half a pear left from lunch. All carbs with a dash of fiber. Never a good plan.
Oh, and my old friend Depression had just come knocking. A bonus.
I've learned to be kinder to myself in these circumstances than I used to be. Now I look with compassion on my devolved and nutrient-deprived state and begin to wonder how I can help my poor, baby self feel better. Since I was already VERY HUNGRY--again--by the time we got home, spending time cooking and therefore not eating until the food was done did not appeal to the fussy, baby self. The planned shrimp tacos were for the full-faculty grown up culinary explorer, not the low-blood-sugar neednick.
On the other hand, the needy self is never emotionally lifted by settling for quick and dirty fast food either. How then, to comfort my ailing self on all the levels of need? I wanted a soothing end to hunger with a clear conscience. I wanted an easy yet sustaining dinner from my own kitchen. I wanted....comfort food, that culinary category heretofore denied me.
And do you know what food first came to my mind? Scrambled eggs, toast with jelly, tea. Quick, homey, soft and creamy, sweet and crunchy, warm. Little effort with maximum home-cooked comfort.
I felt so veddy Britishy sitting down to that little supper. It reminded me of Beatrix Potter fixing tea after coming in from the rain in the introduction to the Peter Rabbit video that I watched (and sometimes slept through--those were tired days) with my toddler son. A steaming cuppa can chase away all sorts of gloom and chill, even if it's only in the heart.
Eggs have power, too. Belly filling protein served up in trembling, custardy curds that even a toddler or the toothless elderly could easily eat, cooked slowly and softly in one of the French ways. Gentle to the infirm, yet full of bodily rebuilding blocks.
And then there's toast. Hand made and whole grain. Crunchy, chewy, lightly caramelized, spread with fruity sweet jam. So basic.
It may have been supper (Well, lupper. It was only 4:00.), but it's also the kind of breakfast for a Saturday morning with nowhere to be. And the dinner menu sometimes when I was a girl and Dad the meat and taters man was out of town. Treats, both. Good associations.
So now I have my first comfort food--not the rich, indulgent kind, but the kind that writer Laurie Colwin called nursery food. I think that term is very appropriate--at least for when I need such stuff. When I've devolved to my baby self, I don't need to be indulged so much as nurtured, as in the days of childhood when I wasn't allowed near the stove and Mama or Granny made me a cooked breakfast. I need sheltering food at pitiful times--not sinfully bad-for-me cheesecake, but good-for-me eggs and toast and chamomile tea. All the strokes with none of the guilt.
Comfort can be so simple and sustaining when we finally know how to give it to ourselves.