Monday, 30 May 2011

Is Comfort Food Just for the Winter?

Photo: Kirsten Taylor, Wikimedia Commons

Nah. At least I don't think so. It's true, once the weather gets chilly people start firing up their slow cookers and digging out casserole dishes to make rich, dark, meaty stews with piles of creamy white mashed potato. And this is what many visualise when they think about 'comfort food'.

But can summer food be comforting too? Of course it can. I immediately think back to Dom from Belleau Kitchen's guest post of Roasted Vine Tomatoes. Hardly a winter dish - and with its sweet flavour and tang of balsamic vinegar it's positively Mediterranean in influence. But yet it's offered here as a comfort food. Salads: can crisp lettuce, caraway seeds and coral-coloured ribbons of smoked salmon be comforting? You bet it can. It's all in the textures, the flavours and in the memories of the person eating it.

Dom from Belleau Kitchen's Oven Roasted Tomatoes

For me, many of my own favourite comfort foods are rooted in my childhood. I’m not really a massive fan of vanilla ice cream – but plonk a scoopful in a glass of Coca Cola and I’m transported back to when I was nine years old and sitting on the porch of our house during the hot summer holidays. Memories are one of the key factors in what makes food comforting – their aroma, taste or appearance can spark off a memory of childhood, to the days when you didn’t have to pay the bills, do the shopping or be particularly organised (as long as you remembered your PE kit on Thursdays). You just got fed whenever you were hungry by someone you love.

Comfort food to me is one of the food areas where there isn’t really time for ‘haute cuisine’ or snobbishness. Uneven cakes, with cream or icing dribbling down one side seem to have more appeal than the perfect pale, aerated discs sold by supermarkets. Similarly, what is one person’s dream dish is another’s nightmare or disaster. For some reason, I find baked beans overcooked until they go a bit mushy completely irresistible. It’s how my Mum used to cook them. And one of my favourite comfort-food dinners is fishfingers, chips and beans. What is one person’s emergency quick fix supper is another’s special treat – to be shopped for specially and eaten slowly.

So I think that comfort food really doesn’t have so much to do with the seasons. It’s about personal memories, textures, colours and of course aromas and taste.

Do you consider any summer foods comforting? Why is that? Would love to hear your comments!

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