The phrase ‘comfort food’ first appeared around 1966 when an American publication referred to it in a story as a coping mechanism for soothing negative emotions. And while that might be true in some cases, it’s not always about assuaging unhappiness; comfort food can trigger great memories (like the apple pie your mom used to make when you were a kid) or it can be that rush of dopamine you experience when you eat your favourite food. Whatever the driving force behind it, the vast majority of us have a food (or that might be food(s) for some of us) we consider comforting, but did you know that apart from individual tastes, countries are also considered to have preferred sets of comfort food? I know traditional smoorsnoek – that great Halaal fish dish – comes to mind for us here in South Africa, along with koeksisters and bunny chow, although not in that order please.
Thanks to Wikipedia, here are a few other countries and their preferred comfort foods:
Australia and New Zealand: from braised lamb shanks, roast beef and chicken soup to bread and butter pudding, and butterscotch apple dumplings (yum!) – as well as Vegemite or Marmite on toast of course.
India: from spicy rice with meat, chicken tikka masala, and roasted stuffed dumplings, to curry with cheese curd, red beans and rice, roasted stuffed dumplings, and sweet semolina pudding.
France: Croque-monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwiches), French onion soup, gratin dauphinoise (potato slices baked with cream), pates, beef stew, Nutella (but of course), and crème caramel.
Britain: without a doubt bangers and mash, and bacon butties (bacon sandwiches); egg soldiers (strips of toast dipped into soft-boiled egg yolk), cottage pie, toad in the hole (sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding) and sticky toffee pudding.
Canada: savoury dishes include cabbage rolls (not so sure about that), Halaal fish and chips, pizza-ghetti (pizza sliced in half accompanied by a small portion of spaghetti with a tomato sauce) and poutine (French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy).
Czech Republic: beef sirloin in cream sauce served with dumplings, whipped cream, lemon and cranberries; potato pancakes; fried cheese usually served with tartar sauce and French fries; and potato dumplings with melted butter and poppy seeds.
Hungary: clear broth with noodles, vegetables and meat; stuffed cabbage (there’s the cabbage again), tomato soup, meatballs with tomato sauce, wiener schnitzel, and crepes with jam – surprisingly only this one sweet dish is listed.
Well, whatever you may consider to be comfort food, make the most of it and be sure to enjoy the rush of warm fuzzy feelings that accompany a bite into your favourite food, because as the Dutch proverb goes ‘when the stomach is full, the heart is happy’ – yes, even if it’s cabbage.