If you know me, you also know I like to cook, bake, try new recipes and tweak the old ones. Most of you also probably know my mom, Judy, is the Bureau County Republican’s recipe columnist, so I guess I come by my love for cooking rather naturally.
My grandma was a good cook, but she hated to spend the time it took to prepare a meal. So my mom was the primary home chef, and all of the kids in my family had dinner chores like peeling potatoes, stirring up a bowl of Jell-O with miniature marshmallows and fruit floating on top, or chopping vegetables for a salad. If there was such a thing as the Department of Children and Family Services back then, we would have probably been investigated for allowing small children to use knives ... but that’s another column!
My mom reads a cookbook like others might read a novel. To her, a cookbook is a collection of love stories. This apple didn’t fall too far from the proverbial tree. We both enjoy subscriptions to a variety of cooking magazines, and the cookbooks at the book store always seem to find their way to our homes. We trade recipes. We share our new dishes with each other. We ask each other advice on how to cook/bake this or that. It’s fun. And even though I try to mimic my mom’s culinary expertise, she beats me every time with her traditional dishes that I’ll never be able to replicate. And that’s OK too.
I’ve always thought it’s really interesting how food plays such a role in our world. When most plan a shopping trip, a lunch stop is always on the agenda. When friends come for an afternoon visit, snacks or a dessert sit waiting on the counter. An out-of-town excursion always includes a stop at a favorite or new restaurant. Clearly, we are a society who enjoys eating — one who finds comfort in sharing a meal or a snack with another.
A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with BCR Senior Staff Writer Donna Barker, who said she was going to leave the office for a while to attend a funeral. She said her husband and her had taken some food over to the family’s house the night before. Comfort food. We talked how the tradition of taking food to a grieving family isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. I always remember my grandparents taking a two-pound can of coffee and one of Grandma’s freshly baked pies to grieving friends and neighbors. Today, I also try to take some food to my friends who have lost someone dear to them.
But it doesn’t have to involve a traumatic loss for food to offer comfort. We’ve had some hectic weeks at my home lately, so my mom dropped off a casserole at work for me to take home, so we wouldn’t have to cook. Most recently, a friend in Sheffield brought over a pan of lasagna and a loaf of garlic bread — a welcome and delicious gesture as well. Comfort food — a pan of homemade goodness that lets folks know you are thinking about them and want to help lighten their load.
In the past couple of weeks, some neighbors have dropped off some sweet corn and a zucchini, and likewise, I always try to share our garden goodness with family, friends and neighbors. If I get in the baking mood, I enjoy sharing my creations with neighbors, so they can enjoy a sweet treat too, and a pot of soup, stew, spaghetti or chili is usually shared with a few older neighbors who just don’t cook for themselves anymore. Besides being fun, it’s a great feeling to share my culinary attempts with others. Comfort food.
As we all know, the world oftentimes seems rather cold and uncaring, but I like to think a good dose of comfort food can go a long way to help others feel special, take away the blues and generate feelings that remind others you care about them. Comfort food — something that makes you feel good inside without even taking a bite.