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all content 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Suburban Island

comfort foods
Monday, Mar. 10, 2003, 7:00 p.m.

Question: Who doesn't need a little comforting sometimes?

What I Learned: Comfort can come from simple things.

This past weekend just turned out to be stressful for me. As I was putting one foot heavily in front on the other, pushing an overstuffed grocery cart that seemed to be fitted with leaden wheels up and down the aisles of my local grocery store while I struggled to read my hastily scrawled (and thus pretty much illegible) list of required purchases, I found myself in the pasta section. On one of the upper shelves, I saw a small familiar box from my childhood.

Ah, comfort food.

What's interesting about this particular comfort food is that it's not mine but my father's. When I was a kid it seemed to me that he was always cooking up a batch of elbow macaroni - boiling the little noodles, heating up some canned tomatoes in a saucepan, and happily wandering out of the kitchen with a large plate of pasta and tomatoes in hand.

He once told me a story about coming home from school very early for lunch when he was a little boy - he lived in a time when little boys still came home for lunch in elementary school - and looking through the low little kitchen window that was thick with a coating of steam on that snowy day. He saw his mother cooking lunch, which you would be correct in supposing was elbow macaroni. Now, I can picture my dad as a little boy kneeling in the snow and looking through that steamy window to watch his mom cooking something up, in the way that mother's sometimes can do, in that kitchen of another era.

I snatched the box of elbow macaroni off the shelf and dropped it my cart and headed over to the canned vegetable aisle where I put a can of tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce in the cart. I had just finished up my shopping.

I needed some comfort food this weekend and I must tell you that as I made that simple dinner, I felt a real wave of peace flow through me.

I may have the details wrong, maybe he only used the canned tomatoes and no sauce at all, maybe he came home early for another reason, but I think the main ingredient was the same - comfort. That comfort steamed and bubbled like crazy as that dinner cooked on my stove on a weekend in 2003 and I myself was very grateful for that corner of reassuring calm that my grandmother and my dad provided to me through a simple meal on a winter evening.

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