Comfort food: Food that provides a level of comfort or consolation, often associated with the foods of childhood. This varies from culture to culture and childhood to childhood.
The other day I heard two radio announcers talking about chip butties, those lovely sandwiches made of hot fried potato chips draped inside a buttery sandwich or bread roll. I was exposed to this delight through a partner who had been brought up in England. As my saliva started to dribble and my mind remembered the joys of that carbohydrate and butter treat, I quickly segued down the path of comfort food, most of which seems to begin in our childhood.
My first thought was of fried bread made with dripping – the leftovers of the fat from the Sunday roast. This dripping was always kept in an enamel bowl near the stove. It wasn’t even refrigerated if I remember rightly. The bread was fried first, then an egg was placed on top and, dare I say, tomato sauce squirted onto the egg. This was the height of my breakfast culinary experiences. The strange thing is that I really haven’t eaten it since childhood – the high fat content has probably scared me off.
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Bread and butter pudding was also a favourite, made of course with the stale bread or the crust end of loaves. If we were really lucky, a few sultanas and currants were thrown into the mix and a dob of cream added. Nothing was wasted in the house I grew up in, mirroring probably many post-war Australian households.
Summer allowed for stewed fruit made from whatever fruit was in season and custard poured over. Quinces, those wonderful yellow fruits growing in many gardens but becoming rare now, were stewed for hours, fortunately with sugar added! I adored them and still do, and wish making quince paste was not such a laborious task. Sometimes the fruit was set in jelly, wobbly red and green varieties to keep the children amused. The red jelly was called port wine, totally misnamed with narry a skerrick of alcohol anywhere near it.
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Another simple comfort food was soup. I vividly remember Heinz tomato soup and toast on a Sunday night watching Disneyland. We had had the Sunday roast at midday and this was a light snack in the evening. It was so good, dunking our toast soldiers into the soup and slurping our way through a warm bowl. Other soups were homemade lamb shank soup with pearl barley and loads of vegetables, the sweet meat floating around in the bowl. Those were the days when you didn’t need the GDP of a small African nation to afford the shanks. And they hadn’t been hijacked by fancy restaurants charging the earth. Life seemed simpler and easier.
Of all those foods, soup still seems to be my go-to comfort food, especially in the depths of a grey and wet Melbourne winter.
What comfort food do our kids know now? McDonald’s chips at the drive thru’ or dumplings delivered by Uber Eats? What were your comfort foods? Do you still enjoy them today? Have your say in the comments section below.
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