There are few things in life more soothing than food. We eat to feel good. We eat to console ourselves.
That is where comfort foods come into play. Comfort foods are those dishes that are especially associated with good taste and emotional contentment. They are usually simple foods (rather than gourmet) and are easy to prepare and eat. They also tend to epitomize home cooking and often invoke feelings of nostalgia and security. Many of them, unfortunately, are associated with weight gain and questionable nutritional value. But those are considerations that become secondary when we really want comforting.
A reader’s poll conducted by About.com showed the most popular comfort foods are peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches, followed by meatloaf, mashed potatoes, brisket pot roast, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and tuna casserole.
The Food Network had its own take on the subject, ranking the top 10 comfort foods. It concurred with About.com readers on fried chicken, grilled cheese, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes, but added the following to the list: pizza, biscuits, French fries, chicken soup and burritos.
Those are some insights into American appetites, but there is a world of food out there, and the dishes that bring the most comfort vary by nation and continent. The variations can be quite stark. According to Food.com, the favorite comfort foods in Australia and New Zealand include baked rice custard, busted flan, Hungarian lamb goulash, pumpkin soup, smashed crab and sticky date pudding.
The Brits like their shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, mushy peas, jam roly-poly, fish pie and cock-a-leekie soup.
The Philippines are even more exotic, with esoteric dishes such as adobo, batchoy, halo-halo and sinigang. (We will leave it to you to Google explanations of these dishes.)
In Poland, melancholy is alleviated by the likes of pierogi, flaki, rice and noodles, sauerkraut soup and a dish called mielone z ziemniakami i mizeria (comprised of a combination of pork meatballs, mashed potato, and fresh cucumbers with sour cream).
Russian and Ukranian citizens cozy up to borscht, caviar, kasha, Olivier salad and vareniki.
In one study on the subject, cited by Wikipedia, regarding American preferences, men preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods, such as steak, casseroles and soup, while women preferred comfort foods that were more snack related, such as chocolate and ice cream. Younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those older than 55 years of age.
When the comfort-food mood strikes Rose Hotel guests, there are fortunately plenty of nearby options. Visiting Brits will be pleased to find Redcoats Pub & Restaurants just a few blocks away with its menu of fish and chips, bangers and mash, and other British favorites.
Steak eaters find happiness at Barone’s, while pasta eaters have innumerable choices such as Fontina, Strizzi’s, Pasta’s, Baci and so on. There is pizza, burgers, seafood and sandwiches, and many different ethnic dishes as well.
We are in the comfort business, after all, and food is no exception.
Written by Mike Consol