Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture. Wikipedia
Wikipedia lists about thirty popular comfort foods for the United States. I like many of them, including mac & cheese. I don’t like the green bean casserole because I got tired of it soon after it first showed up in everybody’s houses. Mashed potatoes are fine, but I prefer them baked, preferably in an oven rather than a microwave. I love grits, always with a lot of butter on top. Cornbread is great, but cornbread dressing is wonderful.
We all have our favorites, the kinds of meals we could eat multiple times per week without getting tired of them.
Books as Comfort Food for the Mind
Every year, magazines, newspapers, and websites choose the best books of the year. Some of these may, in time, become “comfort food,” the books we read over and over.
I’ve read The Prince of Tides and A Scots Quair multiple times. One is set in the southern U.S., the other in Scotland. I never tire of these two books, as some people never tire of mac & cheese. We find something new in the books we like best every time we read them. They inspire us in some way. They might even impact our life’s journey.
Whatever they do, we keep them on our nightstands as old friends, wise teachers, or worthy competitors.
Escape or Smart Choice?
Some people call fast food an easy way out, one that’s not very nutritious and probably has too much salt and fat in it. That’s probably true. I don’t see our comfort foods and comfort books that way. They give us what we need for body and soul without allowing us to escape into stuff that really isn’t good for us. Comfort stuff gives us what we need, whether it’s a food, book, movie, song, game, or often-taken hike in the woods.
Some say that when you crave certain things, it’s because your body or your mind need them. I think that’s true–not counting addiction, of course. When I run out of factory fresh new books to read, I usually grab an old book off the shelf and read it again. It’s almost always the very best thing I could possibly read at that moment. There’s usually synchronicity in the book grabbed off the shelf with whatever the gods think I need to know, remember, or act upon. Perhaps the same thing can be said for mac & cheese and grits.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three-novel collection, “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”