Costume Comfort

I scooped my youngest up from middle school on a cold, damp, little day. She was chilled, and on top of that, her band was having creative differences. “I need comfort,” she said, “I need…popcorn.”

Later that evening – and only because I wouldn’t allow any costume drama viewing on a school night – she turned to what she describes as her “comfort book.” Pies and Prejudice, by Heather Vogel Frederick, (any book, come to think of it) is¬†best enjoyed over a well-seasoned bowl of popcorn. Got curry powder? Nutritional hippie yeast? Dried basil? Sesame seeds? Toss it all in with abandon, and don’t skimp on the olive oil, please.

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I only saw one movie in the theater when I was expecting my youngest, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. starring please-stop-trying-so-hard Keira Knightly, and an oddly expressionless, if strangely compelling Matthew MacFadyen. And what did I (we, actually) munch on while viewing? Homemade popcorn I smuggled in, of course. There was no way I was trusting my pregnant popcorn needs to the whim of the movie theater popcorn machine with its dubious, tacky, plexiglass walls, smeared with trans-fat. Flash forward twelve years and my girl and I both find our comfort zone eating popcorn companionably, as we watch our favorite empire-wasted heroines.

Thanks to Amazon’s algorithm, I was recently matched with The Comfort Food Diaries. Here Emily Nunn, who wrote for the New Yorker and the Chicago Tribune, chronicles her journey around the country to visit, and eat with, family and friends. After heartbreaks that left her facing her own grief and addiction, she sought to immerse herself in the ways of culinary comfort. Life had broken her, but meals crafted with care helped her begin the tenuous process of knitting up her frayed self.

Our relationships with food can be tricky. We are not all granted the body chemistry and life experience that allows a healthy, straightforward way to interact with food. Eating is necessary, yes, but it’s also, obviously, a source of pleasure that comes to symbolize so much: comfort, home, time with someone we love, a way to take care of ourselves after heartaches (or on days when our fellow band members are dullards, ignorant of our creative vision). And for some, life’s deprivations don’t allow enough food; a relationship to food then is just a lack – a longing and emptiness.

I understand that in writing about food, I write as one who takes for granted that I will eat again tomorrow, and probably later today. I am deeply fortunate to have always enough, and more, to offer comfort to those I love.