The simple pleasure of recreating a time-honored family favorite can fill your kitchen, and soul, with an aroma that’s familiar, cozy, and satisfyingly happy.
A Taste of Comfort
By Amy Barbato
Comfort Food… the words themselves elicit nurturing feelings of contentment and joy. Inspired by a day of Food Network shows devoted to this topic, I found myself contemplating what it is about the concept that speaks to so many of us in similar ways. I watched as the TV cooks blissfully shared their own favorites, many of which were attached to family memories and cultural connections. From decadent mac ‘n’ cheese to wintery stews to warm, sticky toffee pudding, these recipes are often of the rich and filling kind that stick to your ribs, while soothing your spirit.
These foods may not be what we turn to every day to maintain a balanced diet and weight management, but they remind us that food is not the enemy — its purpose is to nurture and sustain us. We’re not talking about mindless, emotional eating. These hearty recipes, often linked to memories of home and family, connect us to our heritage and feed our soul. The simplest, and most pedestrian of recipes, can be overflowing with love.
To me, the best comfort foods come from longstanding family traditions. Mine was passed down to me from my mom, which came from her mom, and I’m betting the food chain goes back a lot further than that. Long before I learned the recipe, it was already part of my DNA. My mom has often recounted to me how she loved her mom’s Pasta Fagioli so much, that all during her pregnancy with me, my grandmother would make it for her every Friday night.
My mother always laments that while her own version is very good, it’s still nothing like her mom’s. To me of course, my mom’s is the best, though I must say, I surprised myself when I learned to replicate it! I remember the first night I ever made it. I called my mother excitedly to tell her, “It smells just like your kitchen in here!” The simple pleasure of recreating a time-honored family favorite can fill your kitchen, and soul, with an aroma that’s familiar, cozy, and satisfyingly happy.
While cooking this dish brings its own contentment to me, my true delight is in devouring this warm, thick, soupy pasta and bean stew, held together by gooey, yummy, melted cheese! I shamelessly admit to typically eating three (albeit small!) bowls in a row, and then do my best not to eat the whole pot in one night.
Mom used to laugh with me over the phone and say “it’s so hard not to eat the whole pot!” If I succeed, I have the leftovers for breakfast the next morning! By then, the remaining soup and flavor have been absorbed into the pasta, turning it into more of a thick and delicious stew. (Yes, weird to some, perhaps, but it’s my own personal “breakfast of champions.”)
When it’s one of those raw days, be it weather-related or emotionally so, or I just plain give in to a carb craving … mom’s Pasta Fagioli always feeds me, belly and soul, and takes me home.
(Be sure to check out the recipe!)
I’d like to thank Amy Barbato for sharing her heartwarming memories and recipe. Making favorite recipes that have been in your family for generations can be a great way to fill your belly and tap into positive emotional triggers that help you feel a sense of connection to your loved ones…both those who are still with us and those who are not.
Do you have a family food tradition that brings you comfort? I welcome your comments below. I do respond to comments. Feel free to share your favorite foods and/or recipes! (You can also email your recipes to me, and I will share them.) One nice thing about more of us being at home is that it gives us more time to cook!
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