We gather around the dining table for many different reasons, often out of sheer necessity. Just as food can serve as an emblem of joy and celebration, it can also nourish us in times of grief and stress. It’s times like these that we turn to comfort food.
That said, the idea of cooking for comfort can seem empty or selfish when there are so many problems in the world. It’s hard to take comfort when the mess seems pervasive on our TV screens and Twitter feeds.. Earlier this week, I was speaking to my colleagues about these feelings of futility, when the Salon’s senior editor, Mary Elizabeth Williams, gently chimed in.
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Cooking for others, she reminded me, is one of the easiest ways to reunite with the people you love. Once you’re seated for a meal, the kitchen table serves as both respite and a powerful place to strategize for meaningful change in the world outside of our kitchens.
Data shows that during the pandemic, more Americans have begun to cling to the ritual of sitting down to dinner with the family. In a recent survey conducted by direct selling brand ButcherBox, 76% of respondents wished they could do this more often. What exactly is stopping them? Busy work schedules and extracurricular activities.
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I know that’s easier said than done, but maybe there’s a meal in the next few days where you can put those commitments on the back burner – even if it’s just for an hour – to cook and gather. Here are some dishes from the Salon Food archives to help you get there:
When I think of comfort food, I personally think of pasta. It could mean this springy play on pasta and this, which is filled with bright lemon and dill, or a simple pot of summer pasta with tomato and buttery Brie from Maggie Hennessey. If you’re hungry for something more, whip up a plate of Michael La Corte’s Incredibly Crispy Chicken Parmesan with a side of noodles.
The food that connects us to a place can also be a powerful balm. Try Antoinette Deitcher’s Jamaican callaloo or Beverly Kim’s kimchi jjigae.
Cooking for a crowd? Consider a gigantic baking sheet of Williams’ “stroganachos.”
Continue the comfort with dessert. Take advantage of seasonal products with columnist Bibi Hutching’s riff on panna cotta or her mom’s strawberry delight squares. If it’s peach season in your area, grill some. Top them with a generous — very generous — dollop of whipped cream and a few fresh mint leaves.
Beat the heat with Mary Elizabeth William’s ingenious ice cream sandwiches, which are made from King’s Hawaiian sweet buns stuffed with Kona coffee ice cream. They’re easy and decadent, much like Valerie Bertinelli’s Sicilian Chocolate Love Cake.
More comfort food we love: