march menu: a bottomless bowl of comfort

"Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them comfortable."
Ina Garten


March winds are howling outside, everyone’s worried about the economy, and writing is hard, hard, hard.

We all need some serious comfort, if you ask me.

I could be quite happy with some of this:

Homemade chicken noodle soup.
(photo by mooshee85)

or this:

Datsa one spicy meatball!
(photo by chocolatemonster)

or even this:

There’s nothing like homemade mac and cheese!

Okay, twist my arm, and I’ll make short work of this:

Marry me, warm, moist fudgy brownie.
(photo by jazzijava)

It’s all good. Whatever gets you through the day, gives you pleasure, fills a void, cures the blues, or rewards you for a job well done. Comfort food always hits the spot. It’s easy to make, inexpensive, and, in this day and age of techno chi chi poo everything, uncomplicated

We all have our favorites. According to University of Illinois-Urbana marketing professor, Brian Wansink (you may remember Brian from the soup personality survey I posted last January) — the choice of comfort food is gender specific. Men seem to prefer hearty meals like their mamas used to cook, while women like snacks requiring little or no preparation (amen to that).

But whether it’s meat loaf or dark chocolate, our comfort food preferences were formed in childhood, so this particular pleasure is a conditioned response. So true. Butter me some toast and slather it with guava jelly, and I’m back in Grandma Kim’s kitchen. When I’m under the weather, spoon feed me some chicken noodle soup like my mommy did. What about some soul soothing fried chicken, a little crisp on the outside, so very moist on the inside? Or the best creamed tuna on the planet? I received my fair share of both, courtesy of Aunty Ellen.

The psychological implications are fascinating. Ask a man what his favorite comfort food is, and you’ll learn not only about his childhood, but about regional, ethnic, or socio-economic factors still influencing his eating habits today.

Take me (please). I’m all for organic, heart-healthy stuff — but when Len’s traveling for business and I need to feel less alone, I crave this:

A "zip pack" from Zippy’s, a chain restaurant in Hawai’i.
(photo by newyork808)

Or maybe this, which reminds me of the time, at age 3, I sang "The Unchained Melody" in a saimin restaurant, and received hearty applause from all the customers.

Saimin is unique to Hawai’i.
(photo by James Rubio)

In this time of uncertainty, my free and easy childhood days in Hawai’i beckon, in the form of food that feels safe and familiar.

Typical Hawaiian meal: laulau, kalua pig, poke, poi, lomi lomi salmon, and haupia.

You haven’t lived unless you’ve eaten hot malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery.
(photo by newyork808)

Favorite snacks from Hawai’i, compliments of my family.

I’ve saved a place at my table for you all month long, so I hope you drop by often. There’ll be a little pasta, a little pizza, a couple of doughnuts, a special guest — and a bottomless bowl of mama-huggin’, I love-you-as-you-are comfort.

So, tell me: What’s your favorite comfort food?


31 thoughts on “march menu: a bottomless bowl of comfort

  1. You need a warning, Jama: Enter this LJ entry at your own risk. Not safe for hungry women and empty stomachs.

    Oh my goodness. I could eat this entire post up in one sitting. Your words are profoundly delicious. How do you DO this? I love how you mix and blend art and text to create the Rattigan Dish od the Day.

    Your verbal hugs offer more comfort than you can imagine.

    But a little toast and butter and a hot cup of tea wouldn’t hurt right now. {}

    -Pamela, listening to the rhythm of my belly growling


  2. Oatmeal for morning comfort and curry rice (the Japanese kind, not the Thai kind) for the rest of the day. Best comfort foods around!

    Finish them off with flan or lemon meringue pie, and you’re set.


  3. You could have stopped after the first one for me. Nothing beats a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup on a blustery March day. Guess what I’ll be having for lunch?


  4. Oh I want to see you singing “Unchained Melody” at the age of 3!

    My favorite is included above: Good ‘ol macaronoi and cheese…and we make ours with cheddar, mozzarella, AND gouda! Mmmmm.



  5. I’m drooling over the pictures! I’d say a big piece of chocolate cake with a glass of milk is pretty comforting! For a meal, a pizza -no prep and all the cheesy goodness! :0)
    Kelly Polark


  6. Oh, thanks for the chocolate rec!! I crave dark chocolate like oxygen, but the added sugar is always a concern. I’ll definitely have to try some Heart Chocolate.

    Lomi lomi salmon is a cold salad — raw, salted salmon, tomatoes, and sweet onions. It’s a staple at luaus.


  7. Oh yum. Those cheeses sound so good. These days, I have to use soy cheese (lactose intolerance). I know, it’s not the same.

    My parents like to tell the saimin restaurant story. It seems I had all the lyrics memorized — and this was before the Righteous Brothers.


  8. I just bought two more cans of his vegetable soup! I can’t get enough. Also, I tried Imagine’s creamy carrot. It has cashews and a hint of coconut milk and heat. Oh, it was heavenly.

    But popcorn is my main comfort food. Also, spicy tuna rolls. And milk with graham crackers.

    I have a friend who sits with a box of chocolates, and dips them into a jar of peanut butter. Now that’s living it up!


  9. Well, I gotta say that your comfort foods are rather unique!

    I think its interesting that we form our comfort food habits in childhood.

    And I also would like to say how cruel it is of you to post pictures (like in the first half of the post) because now all I can think of is maccaroni and cheese. =P

    — Carrie, Reading to Know


  10. I’m drooling over the first set of comfort-food photos: mac, meatballs, chicken soup, chocolate – yep, I’ll take ’em all! Also, the Hawaiian snacks in the bottom pic, although that’s more “luxurious treat” than “just like home” for me, of course.

    I’m laughing at the soup-personality thing from a year ago (which I only just read now). I’m apparently a combination of chicken-noodle, tomato and vegetable – and yes, I love all of those. My husband is a NE-clam-chowder kind of guy and, aside from “sophisticated”, the rest of the description suits him perfectly, too. Although I will say he’ll never turn down a bowl of chicken-noodle or tomato, either. 😉

    Since being on this diet, I have a new ‘comfort food’ chicken soup, sans noodles; it involves including a large quantity of carrots as well as other more common veggies in the soup, then pureeing the vegetables and stirring them back into the broth to make a thicker soup. I make it all year round, even in summer, just because I find it so soothing. Makes a nice evening snack, too. Also, my ginger-carrot-butternut soup. I have my own spaghetti (squash) and meatball recipe which is high up there, as well.

    Of the soothing foods I miss – fresh bread, pasta, Ramen with rice and a hard-boiled egg (“Dad food”), pizza (I can make a pizza substitute which is very tasty, but still not quite the same) and, really, any sort of baked dessert.


  11. I love the vegetable soup too (just had some yesterday)! I think it’s my favorite canned vegetable soup brand now. (My fallback position was Amy’s Chunky Vegetable.)

    Yes, I do remember your mentioning popcorn on several occasions. Very healthy — that’s why you’re so slim and fit!


  12. Your soups sound so delicious — and healthful. We’ve substituted spaghetti squash for pasta at times, too. Love it. It’s really hard living a GF diet — I tried to cut back on wheat for a few years, but the world seems to revolve around it. I did miss fresh bread and all those noodles. Now, I just eat wheat in moderation and I do okay. It’s a good thing I like brown rice :).

    The soup personality thing was fun. I think I was a combo person, too (can’t quite recall).


  13. Comfort Food

    Woah, they just keep getting better and better! Ummm, for me it would probably be a huge dish of Chinese buffet, too bad Hau Hau isn’t around the corner anymore. Or a big bowl of moose tracks ice cream. :oD


  14. Favorite comfort food varies, depending on why I want comfort. If I’m sick, it’s chicken noodle soup (the saltier the better), or tea with toast. If I’m having a cold blah day, it’s something hearty, like meatloaf with mashed potatoes or mac & cheese. If I’m having a down day and it’s warm out, it’s a burger.


  15. Yeah, sometimes only meatloaf or a burger will do — even though I don’t eat much red meat anymore these days. What food reward do you use for a good writing day?


  16. Yummm Hawaiian food! beautiful mangos avocados and garlic rice. I’m transporting myself to comfort right now. Thanks for the escape route.


  17. Tanita Says 🙂

    …I’ve been thinking of this for TWO DAYS.
    I still don’t know. I’m just hungry. Again.


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