Comfort food should not require a recipe. Especially if you make it for yourself. If comfort food is to nourish your soul and body, then it needs to be easy-peasy to make or buy when you want it, crave for it.
Comfort food is what you instinctively turn to when you’re down, tired, alone or you are or have been sick. Or when you’ve been travelling for several weeks in a foreign country and suddenly you pine wistfully for that comfort food.
Not Chips, Pop Nor Gelato
My first comfort food is drawn from childhood into adult years. It is not pop, chips, cookies nor gelato, though I enjoy chowing down such indulgences except for pop.
When I was vacationing in Greece for 3 weeks, towards the end I started to lust for …Chinese savory steamed egg custard with sliced meat and abit of soy sauce. With maybe some sautéed bok choy or green beans on the side. A little pat of rice.
Now it’s light noodles on the side. I know. Weird. How ethnic. Why not? I did eat Chinese cuisine at home most of the time well into my teens. This egg comfort dish has peasant roots, is not spicy and calming on a tender stomach. A morale and energy booster after a long winter cold and fever. Or even just relaxing on a pleasant summer day.
Comfort Food Longevity Over Decades, a Lifespan
While at university in the midst of the study grind, I used to brainlessly and happily cook this dish for myself. After slicing a fistful of meat and marinating it for 5-10 min. in a bit of soy sauce and oil with flour and steaming it in a pot, this dish for 1 person is ready in 15 minutes.
It’s egg, some meat protein nourishment and light sauteed veggies on the side, that makes my world feel normal all over again.
As my culinary horizons expanded, when I started to earn money and venture out into the world, other comfort foods joined my list: peameal bacon sandwich with generous dollop of Dijon mustard when I’m in Toronto. In Vancouver, it’s steamed fresh salmon with abit of soy sauce, ginger root and onion.
When I lived in each of these cities, I adopted these favourite comfort foods like a pair of warm mittens.
Another comfort food from knowing German cuisine through Jack, is a real German baked soft pretzel that’s not buttery nor greasy. If it’s the latter, then it’s so American and just not right in my opinion. A soft pretzel with the right lauden finish, a thin firm crust, is better than a heavy bagel. I can eat 2 pretzels without guilt. Unfortunately fresh pretzels meeting such basic, original Old World criteria, are hard to find, even in big cities with over 1 million people where I’ve lived.
Comfort Food May Look Ugly, Plain –But It’s Yummy
Now I’m sure it’s easy to make this Lebanese comfort food which looks very plain-ugly. It’s zaatar flabread –simply a thin baked wheat flatbread sprinkled with brown fine sumac spices that is served, rolled up and hot after it’s been warmed up on the grill. I haven’t been drawn to other variations with tomato or feta cheese and spinach. I’m just happy with this basic thin piece of spicy carb with a jot of red, spicy hot sauce, in the middle of my bike ride.
Sure, I rhapsodize about fine gelatos, prawns, smoked salmon, Chinese sticky rice packets (sticky rice embedded with meat goodies, egg or lentil beans then steam-wrapped with bamboo or lotus leaves) or tamales (with real corn husks). But just give me the watery egg custard steamed with small thin slices of beef, chicken or pork: I will be content and sleep like a baby. And yes, we have no written family recipe. It’s that easy to make.