Writing this blog has its ups and downs. There are times when I am dry – not an idea in my head, nothing I want to write.
Other times, the future-topics list is so long that the problem becomes choosing. That's what I have now – certainly nothing to complain about.
But yesterday, as I was eeny, meeny, miney, moeing the list, I saw Wednesday's story from Mark Bittman, the lead food writer at The New York Times:
"The comfort food of others rarely appeals to us; it’s our own that matters. I know people who drool at the sight of a bowl of rice, who cannot possibly resist it and, almost needless to say, many people feel the same way about pasta...
"Last weekend I chatted with a third-generation Irishman whose wife is a vegetarian and does the cooking; he sneaks out once a week for meat, potatoes and gravy.
"My younger daughter seeks comfort in white beans with garlic, oil and greens, which I often made for her when she came home from school during a particularly poignant period of our lives.
"Your environment teaches you what comfort food is."
While reminiscing about how childhood Sunday mornings with bagels, lox and cream cheese persist as an adult craving, Bittman then turns his essay into a lament about unhealthy food traditions:
”...when childhood food preferences are formed around foodlike substances that were invented in the last 50 years by scientists and marketers looking to develop 'food' that appeals to that same comfort-craving part of your brain — without any consideration of tradition or quality — that’s a bad situation.”
There's no arguing against that but let's ignore Bittman's high-minded food fit for today and anyway, a whole lot of our homemade childhood favorites aren't much healthier than a bacon double cheeseburger.
Like, for example, macaroni and cheese – at least the way I make it.”
For most of my life, it was a homely, homemade dish that has, in recent years become a staple of supermarket deli departments and shows up even on the menus of a few higher end restaurants. That's cheating. If you don't make it yourself the way mom did, it's not worth eating.
Although Bittman's lox and cream cheese on a bagel is on my list of comfort food too, the one always at the top of my list is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And no, you really don't know what you're talking about if you call it a “PB&J.” (That's a modern innovation of the awful American need to reduce every phrase in the English language to an acronym.)
You gotta say the whole thing – peanut butter and jelly sandwich – and you can't use that nasty stuff that combines the peanut butter and jelly in a one jar. Wrong.
But that's just me.
I don't indulge in any of these three favorites often anymore but when I'm feeling down or blue or tired of living now and then, there's nothing like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese (homemade, my recipe), lox on a bagel or peanut butter and jelly – foods that have been making me feel good since before I can remember.
What about you? Our palates may become more sophisticated when we grow up but I'm betting that most of you, like me, go for the simple pleasures from childhood when you need a little TLC.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Artful Aging