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Comfort by the mouthful

February 27, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Two of my favorite words are "comfort" and "food." It's no surprise, therefore, that I've found the combination of the two make a fitting topic of conversation when I get together with friends.

Last week, during the mid-evening break in our community Bingo game, the topic came up again. As my table mates enjoyed their snacks, I asked each of them to tell me about what they consider comfort food.

Lorraine quickly replied "anything sweet preferably, chocolate."

Clark, a retiree from the maple-forested hills of Pennsylvania, said his choice goes back to childhood. "Homemade pancakes with fresh maple syrup," he said with a grin.

Debbie admitted she's a confirmed fan of pasta in all its forms.

Patti, the final member of our group, echoed the feelings of many gals I know, including me. She said there's nothing that gives her greater joy than a plate of chocolate brownies.

After our Bingo-evening conversation, I did some research on the topic of comfort food to learn what so-called "experts" have to say on the subject.

I discovered that studies have shown American men generally prefer comfort foods that are warm and hearty like steaks, casseroles and soups. Women, the experts found, are more interested in snack related foods like chocolate and ice cream.

In our own family, through the years certain comfort food preferences have been forged that still serve the various members of the Schenk clan when illness or the blues hit. (Except for daughter Sherri, who somehow stumbled on an odd combination that works for her.)

For daughter Becky, the answer has traditionally been a specialty my Mom often made. It's "Swedish Rice Soup." This delicious concoction, passed on from a long-ago Scandinavian neighbor, is a rich, rice pudding-like treat, served warm.

Middle daughter Sherri found her favorite comfort food in the unlikely twosome of canned pears and bread. There's no accounting for tastes, they say ... especially since Sherri isn't fond of chocolate. And, yes, she IS my daughter.

Son Tim's lifelong favorite food, whether for comfort or routine nourishment, has always been potatoes. He'll take 'em in any form from mashed to fried to baked. In fact, if they ever develop potato ice cream, no doubt Tim will be the first in line to give it a try.

His obsession with the lowly spud is so well known in the family that for his 9th birthday, his big sis, Becky, gave him his very own 10-pound sack of potatoes. It was his favorite gift.

In my own case, when I really need something therapeutic during bouts of the flu or other maladies, I go back to my mother's home remedy - a cup of hot bullion and saltine crackers. But, of course, if I'm only seeking comfort, I have to revert to the universal cure, chocolate.

Through the years, I've had many interesting answers to my question of "what is your favorite comfort food." The best response of all came from my friend Nancy, a lady of wisdom and insight. Without hesitation, she replied, "There's no contest. My favorite comfort food is something someone else cooks, serves and cleans-up after."

Come to think of it, that may be the perfect definition of comfort food.



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