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Another Day in the Country

Noodling about comfort food

© Another Day in the Country

When I’m tired, really hungry, lonesome, or not feeling good, I need comfort food. And to each person, I suppose, the kind of food that brings comfort is different. Chicken noodle soup has always been an “if you’re sick” comfort food that is guaranteed to “make you feel better.” A poached egg (in milk, please) on toast is a comfort food for me if I’ve had an upset tummy and this is my first solid meal.

For a regular, I’m-really-hungry kind of meal, mashed potatoes are a comfort food along with creamed peas. My mom’s Christmas salad with whipped cream, marshmallows, grapes, and pineapple also qualify as a nostalgic, comforting dish.

These past two weeks, I’ve been in California, because my daughter, Jana, was in a car accident and my son-in-law, the breadwinner, called to see if I could come help out when she got home from the hospital because he had to go back to work. Of course, I’d come!

Luckily, she’d had no broken bones. She did suffer a pretty severe concussion when she was knocked unconscious and lost feeling and mobility in her legs — that scared us! But the doctor assured her that as the swelling in her brain went down, things would most likely return to normal — which they did, quite quickly. She was out of ICU in two days and left the hospital a day later with a walker. By the time she was home a day or so, she was walking (hesitantly) on her own. We’re so thankful!

Meanwhile, all her friends and co-workers kicked into gear to help out with food. Just about the time that the chief cook and dishwasher arrived from Kansas, so did the potluck.

I’ve evidently lived long enough in Kansas that I’m tuned to what happens in Kansas when there is a family emergency — which, by the way, I haven’t had many of. My sister and I (mostly, my sister does the cooking and I do the driving for doorway delivery) usually opt for cinnamon rolls or coffee cakes to comfort the bereaved or the sick and afflicted. If it’s comfort food for someone else, desserts seem to hold sway over meat and potatoes.

I remember a friend bringing a plate of cold cuts and veggies to the house when TTT was sick — that was a lovely gesture. Nibbling food is great when you don’t have a big appetite.
Kathy, on occasion has brought chicken noodles and mashed potatoes to comfort us. What a wonderful treat. We love it! Chicken, noodles, and potatoes I recognize. They are standard fare like Jell-O. We know what they are; but in California, land of wheat smoothies, health food, farmers market, and a multitude of ethnic foods, I was in trouble. And here I thought I was so eclectic!

Every evening a different mother from the pre-school my grandson attends came with dinner. “Here’s rice, black beans, and enchiladas,” said one, “just heat them a little and you’re all set.” How lovely! I did as I was told, we dished up the plates and sat down to eat, “Hmm. What’s in those enchiladas?” In Kansas, I’d expect cheese, hamburger, maybe chicken; but in California those sweeties were stuffed with squash! Never heard of that before but Richard assured me that the Mexican ladies where he works put all kinds of things in tortillas.

Another friend came by and said, “I’m bringing comfort food. It’s a recipe that I made up. We call it Smoosh.” I surveyed a huge bowl of food and sniffed. Actually, I sniffed after she was gone, “What was this? Barley? Curry flavor? All kinds of veggies like corn, peas, carrots.” Very interesting. “But where’s the mashed potatoes?” I mourned quietly to myself. Managing the leftovers in the fridge has become a fulltime occupation.

Today in the mail — UPS actually — we got a pie in a box. I’m not kidding. On the outside, it said “perishable” in big letters and on the inside was a cherry pie that didn’t quite look completely baked, but it said it was ready to eat and who am I to argue? Jana said it was good. It’s absolutely the first time we ever received a pie in the mail! The day before she’d received flowers by UPS which was a surprise in itself; but pie?

This afternoon another lovely lady showed up at the door with a huge picnic basket trimmed in blue and white gingham. She looked like she’d just stepped out of Martha Stewart’s kitchen. She had a bouquet of fresh cut lavender for Jana and a little bottle of bath salts for her tub tonight. All of this so California. She had lasagna with baking instructions written on the foil covering and freshly baked focaccia. There was a whole pan of caramel brownies straight from the oven, still warm; but the art piece was the salad, “Goat cheese, strawberries and greens,” she said, “and here’s the dressing.” In the salad were flowers, not just violas or nasturtium (as I’ve seen before) but petunia and geranium and a couple I couldn’t identify. I hadn’t read the Sunset Magazine that must have suggested those flowers in a salad so I chickened out and decided they were just for effect and not consumption. Just for the record, the only salad I’ve eaten for a week that consisted of plain lettuce and tomatoes was one I made myself. Have I been in the country too long where noodles, meat and potatoes are still considered the primary food groups?

Just know that I’m thinking of you as I spend another day in the city and you enjoy another day in the country. Jana’s car was totaled but she is doing well — how could she not be with all this healthy food and tender, loving, care coming her direction?

Last modified June 27, 2012

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