Comfort food is wonderful, is it not? Hot and delicious on a cold day, like a bowl of homemade soup or a roasted chicken or a steaming bowl of pasta, mmm, or warm cookies. Hungry yet?
I have some favorites, like everyone else, but many of my comfort foods are attached to memories - maybe that's why some foods are comforting to us, they remind us of happy times or people who are dear to us. Some foods, like mac and cheese, or meatloaf, or spaghetti, or even hot cocoa made from cocoa and sugar, have attached to them distinct memories of childhood, a great time we spent with a friend, or maybe the first meal we prepared of a boyfriend (girlfriend).
One of my memories actually revolves around a time when I wasn't eating that much. In high school eating was not something I cared too much about. I can remember one time when I had gotten particularly thin, which I did from time to time, and my mom made a special meal for me in an effort to entice me to eat something.
I think my mom was worried in her I'm-not-going-to-let-you-know-I'm-worried-but-I-am way. My mom was a teacher, and when she came home from school she was understandably tired. Evening meals during the week were often times quick affairs: frozen hamburgers, frozen chicken pot pies, or Kentucky Fried Chicken (I kid you not). But when she cooked, she was an amazing cook.
The kitchen in our house was a typical 60s ranch house kitchen, small but functional. One of the great things about our kitchen was it had a "lunch counter" that faced into the kitchen. So even though it was a small space, you could still sit at the counter and interact with the person doing the cooking or unpacking of the food. It was a great place to sit and talk.
On one particular afternoon, I was sitting at the kitchen counter, and my mom, still in her school clothes and stocking feet, was standing in the kitchen looking in the fridge and the cupboards.
"What would you eat?" She asked, continuing to rummage in the cupboards.
"Oh, I don't know. I'm not that hungry." I said still reading my book.
"Come on. You know what? I have everything here to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Does that sound good to you? I could even throw together a small salad" she said all this while pulling things out of the cupboards and fridge.
I have to say, it was probably the way she said it, but it was the first thing that had sounded good to me in weeks.
"Yeah, yeah, that kinda does sound good." I said, putting my book down.
"Good. Just let me get changed, and it will be ready in about one hour. Sooner if you help me."
"O.K. I'll do the potatoes."
I can still remember that meal, forty years later. It's true. I can remember the juicy meatloaf and the creamy potatoes like I just had them last night. It has been almost forty years since my mom had to coax me into eating. She was a fabulous cook, so I'm still not sure why I chose not to eat. The angst of a high school girl.
Another recipe that has been with me for forty plus years is a recipe I boldly asked for from the cook in my first high school. I went to two, first an all girls Catholic school and then a co-ed public school.
The nuns who ran the first high school I went to actually cooked our lunch for us every day. At about 10 o'clock in the morning we could start to smell the beginnings of what would be our lunch in a few short hours.
One of my favorite lunches was called 3-Way Spaghetti. It was delicious. Total comfort food. I still have the note written by me to the sister who made our lunch:
Dear Sister, could you please get me the recipe for 3-Way Sp. Karen Smith
(I abbreviated spaghetti no doubt because as a 13 year-old I didn't know how to spell it).
Graciously, she wrote out the recipe on the back. Remember, she was making this for about 300 girls, yet she wrote out the recipe so that I could duplicate it at home.
It is the best of the best comfort foods: Spaghetti, ground beef, and cheese - yum!
So tonight I made the recipe with a few modifications. You can see it here.