What is your comfort food?

26 12 2007

What is comfort food? Everyone has their own definition, although some of you may not be familiar with the term. You know you’ve eaten comfort food when your brain says: “Oh man! That brings back memories.” For me, comfort food makes me relax, and it brings my guard down. It could be the food your mom makes, or that you remember eating at your grandma’s house. Its the food you serve yourself seconds of, or thirds. Its the “must have” food when you have returned home from a long trip.

For me, its Puerto Rican food. I was born in the U.S. and was raised as an Air Force brat, moving every three years or so to a different region of the States, or to a different country altogether. Both of my parents are Puerto Rican and they have lived in the U.S. ever since my dad joined the military. I’ve experienced different foods and different cultures, but nothing says “home” to me more than a plate of mom’s cooking. That never changed, regardless of the location. Although I’ve never lived in PR, the food is a part of my upbringing.

What I’m talking about here is rice and beans – yellow or white, with pinto beans or black beans; pork shoulder marinated with hefty amounts of garlic and oregano and slow-cooked until the meat falls off the bone (make sure to leave me a big piece of the crunchy skin); plantains – either fried, mashed, or sweet baked; pasteles – a Caribbean type of tamale made with plantain dough and filled with pork, pimentos, and green olives, then wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled (yum); ropa vieja – shredded beef stewed in a tomato, onion, and green pepper sauce; empanadas – pastry dough filled with ground beef, or cheese, or whatever, and deep fried; tembleque – creamy coconut custard. There’s more – a lot more.

I just can’t get enough of this stuff, and when I do, I am in a place where I forget the worries of the world and the stresses of life. I’m momentarily taken back to my childhood when things were carefree, when mom and dad knew everything, when everything was right. This Christmas day, I prepared some of these things for my family and invited my parents over to share. I hope they are proud that I embrace the food of my heritage. I hope my cooking takes them back just like it does for me.

Do you have a food like that? What is it? I’d love to hear about your comfort food and the memories it evokes.

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10 responses

27 12 2007
Deb

I always loved Puerto Rican food. My partner is from Puerto Rico and she introduced me to pastelles! UGHHHH! It’s like my drug! Total comfort food.

29 12 2007
ERR

You forgot the “SURULLOS”

30 12 2007
ieat

deb: thanks for pitching in – white or yellow rice? ERR – YES! I haven’t had those in a long time (with ketchup and mayo mix to dip). Like I said, there is so much more: almohabanas; mallorcas; sobreasada; bistec encebollado; mofongo; (wiping drool off now).

31 12 2007
ERR

MOFONGO WITH CAMARONES

2 01 2008
K

Heh. For me it’s macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, greens and cornbread. I’m so white… 😀

2 01 2008
ieat

Do you make your own mac & cheese or do you box it (I like Velveeta – sad huh?). Do you have a good recipe for cornbread?

3 01 2008
Sherxr

For me, Hot chocolate on a cold winter evening. Chicken rice or porridge for lunch and those homesick moments.

4 01 2008
ieat

Sherxr – Do you make your own hot chocolate? My extended family had a long-standing tradition where they met at my grandma’s house every Sunday and had hot chocolate and bread. Home-made hot chocolate, that is.

4 01 2008
K

Well, when I’m in the mood for mac ‘n’ cheese, it’s because I’ve had a really bad day and therefore don’t feel like cooking anything. So it’s Kraft for me on those days. 😉

My mother, however, makes a mean macaroni and cheese that tastes like something you’d find in a snooty restaurant. One day I’ll try to conquer her recipe…

My best suggestions for cornbread are these:

1. Use 50% part stone-ground cornmeal and 50% regular cornmeal. The stone-ground cornmeal adds amazing texture and depth to the cornbread, but using too much makes it gritty.

2. Use canned corn or creamed corn (my favorite) in addition to the cornmeal. The cornbread will be so moist and creamy that you’ll wonder how you ever ate cornbread without it.

3. I always add jalapenos to my cornbread, but only one or two finely minced peppers. It adds just the right kick.

Alton Brown has a spot-on recipe here: Cornbread with Creamed Corn

24 01 2008
sherxr

Hm.. Sometimes I do if I have my own chocolate. I love them with cream…lots of them as topping!! I just think making Hot chocolate with cocoa powder is not “authentic”.
Hot chocolate is more than comfort food for me.

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