This blog is all about my favourites. Mostly. I do write sometimes about the things that weigh, but mostly, it's about things, people, stuff I love and which make me content.
I have difficulty separating comfort food from favourite food. I love food, and cooking and my kitchen (actually, any kitchen) is one of my most favourite places in the whole world. I'll find my way around any kitchen and cook. When I travelled to Johannesburg on business, I'd
sometimes often stay with one of my dearest friends. One day, her then partner commented that they were running late and that someone had to see to the supper. Quick as a flash, her reposte:
Oh, I'm sure Fiona's already doing something about it.
She was right.
So, technically, what is the difference between comfort and favourite? Beside the fact that one is a noun and the other an adjective:
Comfort - [a] state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
- things that contribute to physical ease and well-being.
- preferred to all others of the same kind
I have some favourites that are not connected to food: my favourite animal (cat - unless you hadn't guessed). Favourite human - The Husband. Favourite rugby team: the Springboks. Now, food, well that's another matter, and for me, in many respects, the two are intertwined. Comfort is all about well-being and contentment, and food is associated with the most ancient of our senses: smell. Without a sense of smell, we can't taste. I cannot conceive of a world in which I will never taste again. I have had some experience of that.
Going on twenty years ago, I went on a business trip to Japan. The timing was less than optimal because it coincided with moving house - the first home that The Husband and made together. It was also about six months after the my father's death; my mother had died eleven months before that. Oh, and although neither had anything to do with the break-up of the other's previous marriages, we were both going through divorces. That was just for starters. As the year progressed, the company I'd invested in, and where I was working, went belly-up, The Husband retired; we got engaged. Look at that list and Google the things that cause the most stress in one's life...
I returned from Japan (nearly 48 hours' travelling with no sleep), having spent five days staffing a stand at a trade show, with a twisted ankle and a really bad cold. The ankle healed, cold went, but the streaming nose and eyes didn't stop, and with those streams went my sense of taste. Well, mostly. It came and went - largely associated with the extent to which my nose was blocked. That could be triggered by anything from a glass of Chardonnay and cooking a pot of fragrant rice, to nothing of any consequence. This is one of the reasons for my preference for Sauvignon blanc.
It's the only time in my life that the kitchen wasn't a happy place and I didn't enjoy cooking. I was never sure how a meal would turn out. The Husband still tells the story of our going out for supper one evening (when I returned from yet another business trip), and I chose the least expensive thing on the menu: a soy burger. He was appalled. My response:
"I can taste nothing. What's the point of paying a lot of money on something I can't taste?"
The Husband still tells me I've never produced a meal that was not both edible and delicious. Even then. I guess he's biased, but I'll take it.
What I could taste, though, was salt and sour, so salt and vinegar chips, or crisps as they're known elsewhere, became my go-to comfort food. There was a vendor who came to the office daily. I'd make a daily purchase. Only salt and vinegar. Nothing else. No salt and vinegar. No crisps.
We ultimately discovered that it was the house: it was damp and full of mould. We moved eleven months later and within a week, the symptoms were gone.
I could breathe.
I could taste.
Everything. All. The. Time.
I still enjoy salt and vinegar chips but eat them less frequently now. Actually, I can't remember when I last had a bag.
Now, my comfort foods are determined by taste and flavour - and have history - of course! The foods are tied into two of my favourite ingredients: eggs and tomatoes. Regular readers and watchers of my Instagram account will know this. Eggs routinely feature - and not just for breakfast.
I'll eat eggs any which way. For breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea.
Of course, my most favourite way to eat eggs is scrambled. I wrote a bit about that here.
Growing up, an annual crop was tomatoes. They are not essential to every meal, but if you're at a loss as to what to cook, and short of other ingredients, the trusty tomato is an essential standby. She has stood me in good stead. Often. When I've suddenly had to produce a meal. Some might say that a meal without a tomato is like kissing a man without a moustache. Or eating beef without mustard. As I've "grown up", I'm not sure about either, and am certain it's a matter of taste. That said, we do eat a lot of tomatoes. Raw and cooked.
As with eggs, I'll eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea. When we have a good crop, this is a common exchange:
Me to The Husband, "What would you like for dinner?"
Him, "What are you thinking?"
Me, "You can have anything you like as long as it's with tomatoes..."
Combine tomatoes with eggs, and I'm even happier. Poaching eggs in tomatoes? Great, comforting supper on a cold night. A shakshouka is my idea of heaven.
A cheat's Shakshouka - not quite as spicy and with just what was available.
As is homemade cottage pie.
Cottage pie infused with red wine and rosemary, topped with butternut and potato. (Photo: Dennie Pasion who described it as "the best").
Then there is pasta
Pasta is both a food and a key ingredient. I make my own, but before I did, and when I lived alone, a pasta supper was a very easy throw-together. With tomatoes, of course. I confess, too, that there were times I happily ate pasta with grated cheese and tomato sauce (ketchup). I kid you not.
Pasta, now that I make it myself, is not the unhealthy thing of commercial pastas: one jumbo egg to a cup of flour is ample to feed the two of us. When we ate commercial pasta, we'd eat twice the quantity.
Pasta suppers - with and without tomato.
Most often, our pasta suppers are vegetarian affairs - usually with herbs, if not vegetables, from the garden.
My top three most comforting meals (foods)
Among the meals that bring me most comfort are a traditional roast and gravy - especially lamb with mint and onion sauces, followed by the dishes that I conjur up with the left over meat, vegetables and gravy. These are based on dishes my mother used to make and which I loved.
If, though, I have to narrow it down, and one must, to just three -
Third place: Creamy tomato pasta
Creamy tomato pasta - need I say more?
Second place: Fish, parsley sauce and peas
This meal gives the lie to my Scottish roots as it is very English. Blame it on the Sasenach genes I inherited from my mother. Fish, parsley sauce and peas.
An added bonus would be new potatoes, boiled with mint. Or chips.
Top spot: Tomato soup
The pièce de résistance, though, is tomato soup. It has always been a favourite and when I'm feeling poorly or when I can't do coffee (because two cups are the limit for my caffeine intolerance), I will have a cup of tomato soup. I confess.
My daily fix. In a blue and white mug. Of course.
In my mid-twenties, I had the worst dose of 'flu - and I do mean influenza - I had ever had in my life. I lived alone and the only thing that kept me
alive going was tin after tin after tin of Heinz's tomato soup.
"Do you need anything, Fiona?"
Not chicken soup. Not chocolate. Just tomato soup.
Fresh tomato soup.
Now I make my own tomato soup with fresh tomatoes. Add cream and you have cream of tomato.
Two last words:
As I was preparing this, I realised that other than the scrambled egg post, it hadn't entered my head to share my recipes for roast lamb with its trimmings, let alone the fish and parsley sauce and the tomato soup. Let me know if you'd like any of these, and I'll add them to my "to do" list.
And, secondly -
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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