Food Therapy 101: Top Five Basic Comfort Foods

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, May 7, 2008

In a completely random survey, conducted solely in my kitchen and scientifically verified or researched by no one, I developed a working hypothesis—or perhaps more accurately, a biased opinion.

I came up with what I believe to be the top five basic comfort foods. For simple, feel-good value and getting bang for your buck—these are the ones. See if you agree.

But first, let me preface my list by claiming that in no way do I recommend consuming anything just for comfort. It’s a practice I abhor, and I have never participated in such unhealthful and deviant behavior. I also weigh 103 pounds, drive a red Lamborghini and recently ended an intense relationship with George Clooney.

Now, the list.

Potatoes: Think about it. This starchy wonder is probably the least appreciated, yet one of the most versatile foods of all. Boil, bake, fry, mash, dice or grate them. Add a bunch of stuff to a baked potato and create a whole meal. Pick a color—white, red, Yukon gold or even blue. Potatoes have it all.

You may notice I have not included sweet potatoes here. That’s because while they may be perfectly acceptable fare, they are not on the list. Just accept it.

Chocolate: This is the most obvious choice for soothing edibles. People often name chocolate as a favorite food, an aphrodisiac, and some folks even claim certain types of chocolate provide health benefits.

It’s all just moot however, when talking about the true purpose of this confection. Chocolate is really all about entertainment and making the consumer feel good. It’s comforting properties (which, incidentally, may later be accompanied by regret), are no secret. Author Geneen Roth refers to chocolate as “bliss in matter.”

Pass the happiness, please.

Cheese: Maybe this is the most neglected of sustenance that also serves as solace. Its various forms and flavors are all up for personal grabs. But what I’m thinking of here is the gooey, melted variety.

You know what I’m talking about—grilled cheese sandwiches that are crunchy on the outside—oozy in the middle, nachos slathered in a blend of cheddars and jacks, pizzas dripping with mozzarella.

I’ve heard it said that cheese is evil—filled with all those calories and fat. But have you ever just felt it slide down your throat and been happy to be alive and eating? Warm cheese has this power—the ability to assuage crummy life circumstances.

However, you’ve got to allow it. While it can perform miracles, cheese is not a natural comfort food choice for many. Given the chance, it could become one.

Bread: There’s no more universal form of nourishment than bread. The assortment is astonishing and much of it is downright delicious. I’m not referring to most of the bagged brands in the bread aisle at the grocery store. They have their place in the menu. But for pure consolation, bring on the fresh baked artisan types.

Stop in at Great Harvest Bread Company. Bread as comfort food only counts when it’s hearty. Maybe it’s like your mom or grandma used to make. Maybe it’s a fat little piece of garlic bread complementing the soup you just ordered (see next paragraph). Whatever category it falls into, watch the way a truly good piece of bread puts you at ease.

Soup: This is a gimme. The value of a bowl of soup cannot be overrated. Sometimes it’s Campbell’s from a can and sometimes it’s homemade cream of broccoli. The pleasures involved with ingesting just the right combination of ingredients at once and calling it a meal are close to total satisfaction.
The notion of chicken soup as a cure-all is probably not an accident. The mixture of flavors that creates the perfect soup is like a security blanket. Let it wrap you up and lift your cares.

Here’s an idea. Make potato soup, add some grated cheese, rip off a crust of bread and chase it all with a Hershey bar.

Now, that’s what I call a therapeutic nosh.

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