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    Reheated comfort food

    As is the case with many flu- and bug-stricken folks around the country, the last few weeks have been a battle for me as I struggle with super bugs of dizzying sorts that I just can't seem to lick.

    Yesterday, though, I felt a bit better than I have been. At least enough to actually cook dinner, compared to the frozen foods and fast foods Jim and I have been feasting on for far too many meals.

    Considering I was still feeling fairly cruddy, it should be no surprise that I chose to make one of my favorite comfort foods: biscuits and gravy.

    While I stirred the gravy, sausage bits swirling around the spoon as I waited for the milky goodness to get thick and creamy, I considered how much I love biscuits and gravy, how much comfort it provides when I feel not quite myself, physically or otherwise.

    Yet I wouldn't give biscuits and gravy top billing on my list of favorite comfort foods, for that belongs to another dish.

    comfort foodI wrote about that particular dish — my very most favorite of all comfort foods — for Victoria magazine nearly 15 years ago. (Well, it was actually for the "Friends of Victoria" reader newsletter, which is neither here nor there, though, as I was paid just the same.)

    Because my brain is still rather foggy and creative juices haven't been flowing well of late, I decided that today I'd simply share with you that little story of my favorite comfort food, word for word as published by Victoria magazine.

    It goes like this:

    A Taste of the Past
    Simple pleasures are the best

    I remember days from my childhood walking home from school for lunch through the frozen Minnesota landscape. Snow covered the ground and a thin crust of ice formed across the top. As I balanced each step, I tried to guess how long I could stay atop the snow before the crunchy crust gave way.

    After trudging through the cold, I was greeted by an unexpected welcome. Inside our old farmhouse, bowls of warm macaroni and tomato sauce awaited my brothers, sisters, and me. Perfectly cooked, perfectly plain elbow macaroni bathed in brilliant red tomato sauce straight from the can, with just a sprinkling of salt.

    What Mom prepared for us those winter days was love pure and simple, no extras added. In my memory, those simple lunches must have been right around Christmas, because I remember the contrast of the red sauce and the white of winter making a lasting impression.

    Ever since then, I've turned to macaroni and tomato sauce whenever I'm in need of comfort. My high-school boyfriend and I used to enjoy it as an after-school snack, although his mother tried to convince me to add a little butter to my simple recipe. The butter makes it creamier and better, she explained, but to me, it no longer tasted like Mom's.

    When I was pregnant with my first daughter, there were times I felt scared about my future role as a mother. Many days were comforted by the simple taste of home and those early memories of Mom boiling up a pot of elbow macaroni.

    Now that I have three daughters and a slightly more sophisticated approach to cooking than I did in my first few years of marriage, I rarely make macaroni with tomato sauce. Our tastebuds prefer a bit of basil, a hit of garlic, or a sprinking of cheese — and elbow macaroni is rarely the pasta of choice these days.

    But there are days when the kids are in school and I'm home from work that my husband comes home for lunch. If either of us feels under the weather, we satisfy our craving for comfort by cooking something simple. The first thing we reach for is the macaroni and tomato sauce — always kept on hand for just such emergencies. The soothing smell seems to curb some of life's worries and I find great satisfaction in knowing that my husband's enthusiasm for my lunch of choice is as strong as mine.

    It is then I am completely reassured that I've made the right choices — in meals and in men.

    — Lisa Carpenter, December 1998

    Today's question:

    What's at the top of your list of comfort foods?

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    Reader Comments (17)

    Sorry to hear you're still under the weather! I'd love to offer words of encouragement, but mine lasted > month and two rounds of antibiotics.. Wicked 'bugs' this year!! Hang in there ♥

    When I'm really sick, I like BLT's...I don't know why. Otherwise, my 'comfort' foods vary.

    PG comfort food with 1st daughter was oatmeal (despite fact I hate oatmeal!)
    PG comfort food with 2nd daughter was chocolate eclairs. Lots of them.
    And my comfort food today is Girl Scout cookies delivered last night...

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNonnieKelly

    I have never tried sausage gravy over biscuits, but I can tell you right now, that would never be on a comfort food list for me. When I am sick just the smell of meat cooking sends me running. The macaroni with tomato sauce, though, that would do the trick.

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOlga

    My comfort food is cold breakfast cereal and milk. It's effortless and delicious and reminds me of childhood.

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGinger Kay

    Absolute top of my list of comfort foods would be Pizza! I'm a fool for pizza. Second would be cheesburgers. OY

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerri Sonoda

    That Monster Bug is just really hard to get over -- I do hope you feel better soon.

    My comfort food has always been macaroni and cheese. NOT the blue box but elbow macaronis in a sea of melted Velveeta. As a little girl I battled ear and throat infections and it would always slide down so easy.....

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Kc

    My husband makes a mean bisquits and gravy....we had it the other day too.

    My comfort food is a dish that I was brought up on in Hawaii.....two over medium cooked eggs over a couple of scoops of hot rice and a side of fried spam....yummm.

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie E.

    So sorry you're still draggin', pray you'll get all better quickly now.
    I've loved your sweet recounting of a quick comfort food ever since you wrote it all those years ago. Thanks for re-sharing it.

    My favorite comfort food is just a juice, not "food" per say--Clamato heals about any misery for me.

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

    Beautifully written! One of my favorite comfort foods that stems from childhood is cornbread and beans...the washday special handed down from my grandmoms to my mom and dad to me. :) Hope you are fully recovered very soon!

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracey of HaikuYouDo

    Hope you are feeling better, Lisa.

    Lisa, what do you mean by biscuits? In New Zealand biscuits are what American's call cookies. Can be very confusing!

    My favourite comfy food is spinach & baked potato.

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSally Kabak

    Macaroni and cheese are my go to. But I sure love some biscuits and gravy too. Very nicely written, Lisa. If meals and men are keepers in your life - you're twice blessed!

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

    I just hope you're better now.
    Another thing that your lovely essay brought back to mind was how we walked home for lunch in the "good old days" and mom was home, waiting for us. I think a school bus would have looked like a dinosaur to me!

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

    What a lovely 'comfort food' article you wrote back in '98! Made me think of how my mother used to make me a big plate of french fries sometimes for lunch. Wow, I hadn't thought of that in years. So sorry to hear you are feeling badly. This has been a tough year for flu bugs. Take care!

    February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLoy

    Something about cold days and warm comfort food, like you post...timeless.

    February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrown and Flown

    :) My doctor used to think I was nuts but when I was recovering from the flu, that was always MY fave comfort food too! Nowadays I rarely make it - due to weight and health and time issues. So I turn to a couple of other yummy comfort foods - have you tried Marie Callendar's rice, chicken, and gravy? Tasty and bland. Plus I keep a stock of yogurt in the fridge - I am convinced those little healthy whatevers in the yogurt are great for gobbling up the bad whatevers in my sick body :) :) :) Hoping you are feeling GRAND SOON!!!! :)

    February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaye Swain

    I have to say that two of my favorite comfort foods were Hostess Cupcakes and Hostess Donettes. Made me happy! What's a girl to do? For hot foods I'd have to vote for my mother's mashed potatos - as a non-cook I've yet to master them myself.

    February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

    Cinnamon toast with white bread, plenty of butter and lots of cinnamon sugar baked in the oven! Just like my Grama used to make!

    February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

    Your article in Victoria Magazine was very charming, Lisa! You are such a good writer.

    My favorite comfort food from childhood is Campbell's tomato soup and a grilled American cheese sandwich. This was always my favorite lunch and still is although these days i watch my salt itake so i don't have it very often ! :0)

    February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat
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