Sunday, November 13, 2011

All That Comforts Us

I think if my kids had to choose between me and macaroni and cheese, they would choose macaroni and cheese.

When I pull the box out of the cupboard, suddenly there is my daughter beside me, as if she heard the slight rattle of the dry noodles from the other side of the house. And my son, when presented with a bowl, shoves macaroni in his mouth two handfuls at a time and spends several minutes digging every single dropped noodle out of the crevices of his high chair.

I love macaroni and cheese as much as the next person, and I know that it is a staple of the Kid Diet, but it is amazing to me that they would eat it every single day when I take such great pains to expose them to all the wonderment of foods like risotto and shepherd's pie. I think what it comes down to is that, more than any other food, macaroni and cheese is their comfort food.

Everyone has a food or three that acts as a bit of a band-aid for the soul. Mine are all tethered to childhood, to the memory of a warm house and my family around the table. I remember coming home from school and spotting the crock pot on the counter and knowing the best night ever was ahead: stroganoff over egg noodles. And having "What's for dinner?" answered with "meatloaf," and suddenly the day did not seem so bad. And eyeing a huge Thanksgiving bowl of my favorite comfort food: buttery, lumpy mashed potatoes drowning in gravy.

The very reason it is called "comfort food" is that it is comforting, not only to our bellies but to our minds. Food has a fantastic power to recall, for good and for bad, and our comfort foods bring on a pleasant feeling that is a little "I just had a massage/large drink/chat with my best friend" and a little "sleepy food coma," and perhaps a little "eating this makes me remember the best of my past."

Maybe my kids just really like eating macaroni and cheese. Or maybe it makes them just a little bit happier than usual, and in 30 years, when they pull out the blue box for their own kids, they will remember when their mommy used to make their favorite meal for them, in a warm house with family around the table.

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