Comfort Food

December 3, 2011

4' x4' porch garden

Winters always mean comfort food, to me.  A pot of vegetable-beef soup simmering on the stove (though in this economy it’s usually vegetable-hamburger soup).  Corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots (again, with hamburger in this economy).  Tomatoes and okra simmered with slices of smoked sausage (or – yep, you guessed it – hamburger).  Chicken and noodles, with peas and carrots (no, no hamburger, but I have been known to make a mean pot of hamburger and noodles in brown gravy if chicken is too expensive).  Beans and ham.  Chili.  The list of comfort foods around the world is endless.

I started thinking about this after reading an article over at msnbc.com about the toll the economy and subsequent joblessness has had on food banks around the country.  http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/01/9123979-lingering-joblessness-taxes-nations-food-banks  Everywhere, we’re getting worried about how we are going to feed people if this globally entangled economy doesn’t improve.  Maybe we’re looking at it the wrong way.

When you get right down to it, most of what we call comfort food started out as peasant food at a time when peasant farmers and small businessmen had a vegetable patch, a few chickens and maybe a pig, milk cow or goat.  Most comfort food consists of several types of vegetables, herbs and spices, with a little meat for flavoring or some kind of meat substitute such as eggs, milk or cheese augmenting a meal of vegetables and starches such as potatoes, rice or other grains mixed in or on the side.

We humans ate this way for much of our history.  Most of us still do, except that – as the oil age dawned and big agriculture, globalization of crops and processed food spread around the world – our consumption of meats and fats increased while our consumption of vegetables remained the same or decreased, even in those dishes we now call comfort food.  This is a very expensive way to eat.  And, it will become increasingly so as the world economy moves through peak oil and climate change.  That could be a good thing, because almost everywhere the “American way of life” has spread, so has the American way of death – obesity and early age onset of coronary artery disease, diabetes and, perhaps, even some  cancers.

As the global economy – propped up by fossil fuels and a fossil fuel based military – fails, we will have to localize our economies once again – including our agriculture.  Perhaps, with local farmers no longer forced to compete with giant, international agri-corporations and more people growing at least some of their own food again, we will go back to the roots of what we now call comfort food in order to feed everyone.  Over time, we may even see a genuine reduction in the deadly fruits of our modern way of eating.

How could that not be a comfort.

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9 Responses to Comfort Food

  1. pamela says:

    Bravo Linda! great article and I totally agree. Don’t forget pinto beans and salt pork with cornbread! LOL Like you said, it might be a good thing to go back to our roots in our diet. I know I prefer those foods over absolutely anything from a fast food joint or restaurant.
    Grandma used to make white beans and dumplins with black pepper for seasoning and a bit of salt pork. Oh yes! great comfort stomach filling foods.

  2. Bill Hicks says:

    I actually shop at a little community supported agriculture store that fortunately opened just a couple of miles from my house. The couple that owns it grows vegetables on a nearby farm and also features produce and meats from other local farms. The best part for me, however, is the dairy products from a dairy up in Pennsylvania that only uses its own cows and no artificial preservatives. The milk even comes in old fashioned, reusable glass bottles.

    The only bad part is now I’m spoiled. I tried using some supermarket purchased butter the other day when I’d run out of the good stuff and it tasted like I’d put a teaspoon full of chemicals in my mouth. 🙂

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Bill, we have a farmer’s market from spring to fall about a mile from the house. Would love to have something that close year round. Sure glad I have my little freezer for home grown veggies in winter. I don’t drink much milk anymore, but I know what you mean about store-bought butter. Don’t know how they consistently manage to wick all that flavor out of it. 😀

  3. graveday says:

    Dang Linda, I always thought the Murrican way of death was at the end of a barrel. That would be gun, not salt pork, heh.

  4. graveday says:

    Just noticed the astute fellow posters.
    Bill, it is easy to make your own butter, and the bonus is you get your own buttermilk. But first you have to get the milk, and there is the rub, or squeeze, if you will.
    Pam, as far as back to our roots, parsnip is the word.

  5. jj says:

    So true! A lot of peasant food is meat-optional, too…not only good for vegetarians, but also for folks who can’t afford meat – spaghetti and sauce, chili, soup – these can be made with or without meat, just use what you have.

    It’s too bad that folks are so attached to their “American Dream” ways of living and eating that most people will not switch to any other way of eating until they are forced to, either out of poverty or for health reasons. Of course, we are some of the lucky ones who has been able to grow a lot of our food right here, so we’re adjusting our diet quite a bit, just in an attempt to eat all the stuff that grew. It’s so much harder to waste food when you know exactly how much effort went into growing it…

    • theozarker says:

      Hey jj. Yes, very good for vegetarians. The other thing I love about comfort food is that you can usually extend it to feed more. Just dice another veggie, add a little more broth, set out a little more bread and butter and, voila, enough to feed another mouth or two. I figure, if the economy keeps deteriorating, it will be necessary to either feed ’em or fight ’em, so I’d rather feed ’em.

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