My definition of comfort food is a food that not only soothes my soul but soothes it because I can’t create it myself. For others, this definition is mostly shared because someone they loved used to make the dish: mother, grandmother, aunt, father.
My mother was the only one to cook in our family, and I can make most of her dishes. She was an ambitious cook but not a very participatory one–usually halfway through a dish her husband wanted her to be a captive audience to something he wanted to convince her of, or her kids needed her–dicing, cubing, slicing all turned into the same-sized chunk of cut item. I have very little personal time myself, so I can empathize, but when people boss me around when I’m cooking they usually get a cold stare and a cold shoulder until I’m finished. So to crave my mother’s dishes long after she’s been gone for eleven years is not to miss how she cooked food, but to improve on her and silently beg her pardon in the process.
My comfort foods are not of the people I love, but of the places I love that I can’t get to. I miss tres leches cake, which seemed to be a fad in San Francisco around the time I came into exile down here. I miss Indian food, Vietnamese food, Dungeness crab, sesame chicken…some tastes exotic, some pseudo-exotic, and some just associated with a place. I miss straight Guittard chocolate, but I’ll pick up Ghirardelli at the local Rite Aid just to get close.
I can’t make that stuff, and, apparently, neither can anyone south of Orange County.