Global Warming. Underwear Bombers. Gluten. Life feels precarious. I’ve gone beyond worrying about tomorrow to worrying whether I’ll make it to happy hour.
To console myself, I make every meal a Last Supper. Not the broken bread and bloody wine kind, but real comfort food that will send me to the pearly gates with a happy belly.
Show Me the Fat
The foundation of all comfort food is fat. Lard, oil, and butter all trigger our evolutionary dopamine, signaling, “Everything is fine. Go back to sleep.” Fat feels safe. Fat = not starving. Fat is mother’s milk. Heck, boobs are made of fat.
Skinny people make great models because they look like clothes hangers. But when you need real comforting, nobody wants a bony hug. Give us that fat.
Cheese, the refined offspring of fat, is a brick of happy. Cheese needs no cooking, so guys like it. When it melts, it’s like gravy. Cheese is fat you can hold in your hands. It’s stackable fat. Without cheese, nachos are nothing more than corn chip and hamburger salad.
Mac & Cheese, Please
Macaroni is a benign carrier like white bread: flavorless, with just enough structure to hold the food you really want to eat. Mac-and-cheese is a go-to comfort food because it’s made almost entirely of cheese. The macaroni is there only so you can pick up the cheese. That’s why it’s shaped like a handle.
Macaroni-and-cheese is comforting for another reason: your mom made it for you. It harkens you back to a time when you were clothed, housed and fed by a servant. Good times.
Kraft tries to capitalize on our pathetic loneliness by putting mac and cheese in a do-it-yourself box, but nothing is more loveless than powdered cheese and skinny noodles. Kraft macaroni and cheese tastes like parents too busy for their kids. It has the same color and flavor as Hot Wheels track.
What goes with mac and cheese? Ketchup. And regret.
The comfort food I’ll make for myself: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Here’s my recipe:
- Butter two slices of dense wheat bread.
- Butter the pan.
- Butter the butter.
- Smear yogurt on the inside of the bread slices. Do not use nonfat yogurt. This is a grilled cheese friggin’ sandwich, for Pete’s sake.
- Lay on some sharp cheddar cheese and dust lightly with cayenne pepper.
If you are expecting nuclear obliteration or fire-and-brimstone, add a bit more cayenne. It will help you acclimate.
- Open the can.
Cheddar is Better
I love to wrap my arms and legs around a giant bowl of popcorn, with a side of cheddar cheese and wine. Wine, cheese and popcorn are a holy trinity, and it tastes even better if you wear flannel jammies.
If you don’t have any servants, you may find some comfort with convenience store microwave burritos. They are fun to peel like a banana, without tasting like one.
There is enough fat and salt in a burrito to kill you mercifully before you die of whatever cataclysm made you want a burrito in the first place.
Ice cream is nobody’s comfort food, really. We keep dipping into it only because it looks so comforting when Meg Ryan eats it in, well, every Meg Ryan movie.
Comfort Food #3: breakfast for dinner. I don’t know why this works except that the breakfast foods we choose are Froot Loops, pancakes and bacon, which is like having candy for dinner. The reverse doesn’t work the same: nobody is comforted by roast beef and mashed potatoes or breakfast.
Maybe the world isn’t really coming to an end. I know I can’t eat comfort food every meal just to be safe. But when I’m feeling especially insecure, it seems smart to stock up on comfort, just in case.
That’s how the survivalists do it.