The Mystery of Comfort Food


The funny thing about comfort food is that it will always be as unique as the person chowing down. Regional, cultural, and familial traditions all have an effect on one’s taste buds. Typically, comfort food involves a hefty amount of calories.

I envy the soul whose comfort food is carrots and kale.

While visiting my sister, I started watching a youtuber who traveled the world and ate food. Sure, he visited monuments and tourist attractions, but mostly, he ate.

dragon-36748_640After growing up all over the world, his comfort food encompassed seafood, raw meats, and enough spice to win a contest with a fire-breathing dragon. After literally turning away from the screen rather than watch him stuff some raw fish into his mouth, I contemplated the individuality of comfort food — and how someone ate eight meals a day and still remained thin.

One of my comfort foods is, of all things, ketchup. I once read that ketchup is the condiment of MKs (missionary kids).¬†While living in Brazil — a country that didn’t stock BBQ sauce, dressings, salsa, or taco sauce — ketchup became a versatile condiment. Add a few drops of picante sauce, voila taco sauce. (And, yes, I sometimes still have ketchup on my burritos.) Faced with manioc fries, nothing helped the dryness like a dose of ketchup. Weird flavors were easily masked by its familiar flavor. ketchup-29755_640

My mom’s chicken and dumplings also tops the list of comfort foods. As the child of pizza restaurants owners I was literally weaned on pizza, and it too makes the list of comfort foods. Parents that grew up in California meant many meals of Mexican food. I suppose our forefathers probably weren’t referring to a literal melting pot when they used the term to describe America, but they might as well have been.

Moving to Brazil added other favorites to my list of comfort foods. Passionfruit mousse will always be a favorite. Brazilian chicken stroganoff. Recently though, I have been all about craving pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread). Cheesy, gluten-free, and delicious, I feel no need to reach for the ketchup bottle.

My sisters’ comfort foods have also involved some melting in of other tastes. The sister who married a Brit now makes curries as a comfort food. Another sister with a husband of Ukrainian descent craves pierogi and wheat salad. Sugar cream pie and BBQ ribs grace another sister’s table.

What’s your comfort food? Feel free to include a recipe. Here’s the pao de queijo recipe we use.

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

5 1/2 cups grated cheese (traditionally a soft fresh cheese, we now use cheddar, mozzarella, or a mixture of multiple kinds)

3 1/2 cups tapioca flour (available in most gluten free sections at supermarkets)

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

4 Tablespoons Oil

2 Tablespoons Butter

4 Eggs

Milk (Aged cheeses require the addition of milk to form the dough)

Mix all ingredients. Add enough milk to make a dough about the consistency of cookie dough and capable of being formed into balls. Roll into balls and place on greased pan. Bake at 400 until they are a little brown on the bottoms (about ten to twelve minutes). Serve warm.


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