Saturday, 13 April 2013

What is Comfort Food Anyway?

Pardon my absence folks, I was at the Renaissance Society Conference in San Diego, then the IACP in San Francisco (my panel with Sandor Katz, Maxime Bilet and Anne McBride on High Tech and Low Tech in the Kitchen went wonderfully). And then I was talking in Sonoma. But a day in between gigs I had an intriguing conversation with my freshmen food seminar, related directly to the dish you see here. One student's research project was on comfort food. I thought I knew what that term meant and we might, with some simple surveying, be able to figure out if there are differences among men and women, people of different backgrounds or ages, or something to make sense of the concept. At least we could decide that there are some basic flavors, textures, nostaglic dishes that work to comfort the tired, weary, stressed - such as I have been from travel. Absolutely NOT. Answers included soup and mashed potatoes, which I expected. But also sausages. (I can see that!) chocolate, ice cream and even cool water. Some students said spicy, others sweet. The answers were so random in fact that I am beginning to doubt the concept has any validity whatsoever.

All I know is that this dish here works as comfort food for my younger son. And me too incidentally. It's ordinary polenta, with butter and parmiggiano. And he's lately been turned on to shrimp. They're breaded in whole wheat panko (that they gave us at the IACP) and fried in coconut oil. They were absolutely succulent. A conceptual nod to shrimp and grits, but not in the least similar. You know, I think just cooking at home is a comfort after travelling for a week. OK So the question is What IS Comfort Food to You?

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