A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 03, 2008
Comfort Food

"Comfort food” has been described as simple, family food, usually easy to make. Chicken fried steak has been described as Texan “comfort food.” The term “comfort food” often refers to classic Southern food.

The term “comfort foods” is cited in 1966, but this appears to be an isolated use. In a 1972 article that appeared in Family Weekly and was distributed in Sunday newspapers all across the United States, the headline is: “Liza Minnelli: Dieting Is All Well and Good, But Give Me ‘Comfort Food’!”

The Wikipedia statement that the term “comfort food” was added to “the Webster’s Dictionary in 1972” (there are several dictionaries with “Webster” in the name) is not correct. New York Times “On Language” columnist William Safire credited New York Times food writer Marian Burros for popularizing the term, but this is also not correct.


Wikipedia: Comfort food
The term comfort food refers to a style of familiar, simple food or drink that is usually home-cooked, or consumed in informal restaurants. The idea of “comfort food” is popular in western culture and not part of many other societies including East Asia.

Description
Comfort food is typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. Many people turn to comfort food for familiarity, emotional security, or as a special reward[citation needed]. The reasons a dish becomes a comfort food are diverse but often include pleasant associations of childhood[citation needed]. Small children often seem to latch on to a specific food or drink (in a way similar to a security blanket) and will repeatedly request it in high stress situations. Adults eat comfort food for a sense of continuity.

Comfort foods are typically composed largely of simple or complex carbohydrate, such as sugar, rice, refined wheat, and so on.

The term “comfort food” was added to the Webster’s Dictionary in 1972.

Types of comfort foods
Various foods or snacks could fill the urge for a comfort food depending on a person’s taste, but in any given culture or cuisine there are foods that become universally accepted comfort foods.

Comfort food has always been the staple of diners and other informal restaurants, as well as home cooking. Traditionally, there has been an emphasis on authenticity and low cost. One recent development, however, as chefs have explored the roots of American cuisine and tried to define it as a unique style, is the advent of fine dining comfort food restaurants that feature more careful cooking and presentation, higher quality and fresh organic ingredients, and consequently, higher prices.

United Kingdom
In the UK the term “nursery food” has a similar meaning, although it also refers to food given to young children. It may refer to childhood favorites that are still enjoyed in adulthood. Traditional dishes that are often considered comfort foods in the United Kingdom include stews - especially in northern England, and “bangers and mash,” meaning sausages and mashed potatoes. Rich steamed puddings, made from flour and suet and with considerable quantities of added sugar and spice, are also popularly considered to fall into this category.

Canada
Comfort food in Canada has many similarities with comfort food in the United States. However, distinctively Canadian comfort food exists. These include poutine, which originated in the province of Quebec and is considered a distinctive part of Québécois cuisine, as well as Beavertails in eastern Canada. The former consists of french fries with cheese curds and gravy, while the latter is a Canadian equivalent of fried dough. Kraft Dinner and mashed potatoes are popular comfort foods in Canada.

Wise Geek
What are Comfort Foods?
There’s a compelling reason for the pint of premium ice cream in the freezer, the supply of candy bars in the office desk drawer, or the collection of cereal boxes in the pantry. These are all examples of comfort food, those concoctions which provide a sense of nostalgia or self-satisfaction for the consumer. Comfort food is not designed to be especially healthy or politically correct, but it supplies a welcomed respite from the stresses of the outside world.

Although any food with personal meaning for the consumer could be considered comfort food, many people associate the term with Southern cooking. Traditional Southern recipes often call for significant amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and fats, often all at once. Deep-frying is also a cooking method preferred by Southern cooks. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and biscuits all qualify as comfort food for transplanted Southerners or those with relatives in the South.

A comfort food, especially one high in carbohydrates or fats, is often more satisfying than other offerings. An ideal comfort food should “stick to the ribs”, meaning it supplies a sense of fullness and satisfaction long after it has been consumed. Many people choose a personal comfort food for that very reason. A quart of premium ice cream or an extra large slab of ribs can be very emotionally satisfying, which is ultimately the point of eating comfort food.

What’s Cooking America? - Chicken Fried Steak
In Texas, the reigning queen of comfort food or down-home cooking is chicken-fried steak, or as Texans affectionately call it CFS. Every city, town, and village in Texas takes prides in their CFS.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: comfort food
Function: noun
Date: 1977
: food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal

(Oxford English Dictionary)
comfort, n.
(...)
comfort food, food that comforts or affords solace; hence, any food (freq. with a high sugar or carbohydrate content) that is associated with childhood or with home cooking. orig. N.Amer.
1977 Washington Post Mag. 25 Dec. 30/4 Along with grits, one of the comfort foods of the South is black-eyed peas.
1984 Bon Appétit Feb. 56/1 Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham, although it has become an international ‘comfort food’, is traced to French-Canadian cooks in Quebec.
1989 N.Y. Woman Oct. 136/2 After being dumped by her boyfriend, the heroine..goes to d’Agostino’s to buy comfort food..

23 May 1966, New York (NY) Times, pg. 38 ad.
Think thin...Lose weight...learn about ammunition foods, comfort foods and emergency foods.
(From The Thin Book by a Formerly Fat Psychiatrist, by Theodore Isaac Rubin—ed.)

9 July 1972, Clearfield (PA) Progress, Family Weekly section, pg. 14, col. 1:
Liza Minnelli:
Dieting Is All Well and Good—
But Give Me ‘Comfort Food’!”

My mother, you know, was really a terrific cook...It was like a Pillsbury Bake-Off when we all got into the kitchen!
By Liza Minnelli, as told to Helen Dorsey
I’ve always loved good food, but good food to me is “comfort food”: hamburgers heaped high with lots of junk, chocolate sodas, baked potatoes with mounds of sour cream, butter and seasonings. Comfort food’s anything that makes you feel comfortable while you’re eating it.
(Recipes for Liza Minnelli’s Gazpacho and Liza Minnelli’s Chocolate Souffle follow—ed.)

9 February 1978, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Micro-Minders: ‘Comfort Foods’ for Flu” by Fern Storer, part VI, pg. H13:
With the inevitable midwinter virus on the rampage among my friends—and husband—as I write this, I’ve been reminded of the many foods that soothe which can be effortlessly cooked in the microwave oven. These “comfort foods,” as they are also known, hark back to what our mothers fed us when we were feeling puny.

May 1978, Bon Appétit, cover:
Exclusive
M.F.K. FISHER ON COMFORT FOODS
(Index—ed.)
THE MIDNIGHT EGG AND OTHER REVIVERS...72
By M.F.K. Fisher—Foods that comfort!  Some well-chosen words from the doyenne of American food writers.
Pg. 73, col. 1:
A cold potato at midnight...,” and at about the turn of our century, a Midwestern writer put this haunting phrase in one of her forgotten essays, although I can find no reference to it. I remember it clearly from when I first heard it in about 1940. She was lonely. She felt comforted, or perhaps merely revived, when she could sneak down to the silent family kitchen and pull out a boiled potato from a bowl of them in the icebox. As I see it now, she ate it standing up in the shadows, without salt, but voluptuously, like a cat taking one mouseling from a nest and leaving the rest to fatten for another night.

In general, there is a clear difference between revivers and comforters, of course aside from their equal importance in our survival.

Most of us have a few private revivers, which we administer knowingly to ourselves, usually in the company of one or more companions. Comforters we eat or drink alone. Revivers demand a certain amount of public ceremony and can be cold or hot, no matter how plain, but comforters are a private ritual and almost always warm.

9 March 1985, New York (NY) Times, “Turning to Food For Solace” by Marian Burros, pg. 15:
When it comes to comforting foods, people involved professionally are like everyone else.

George Lang, for example, owner of New York’s Cafe des Artistes, said his comfort foods “are foods I can eat at any time, whether I’m full or not.” Foremost is goose liver. “My whole childhood is brought back with goose liver,” he said. “My mother spread golden red ‘paprika-ed’ goose fat from the goose she had cooked on the bread she had baked and topped it with a slab of goose liver. To me, that is the most perfect comfort.”

7 December 1985, New York (NY) Times, “Some Like Their Lumps in Mashed Potatoes” by Marian Burros, pg. 32.
Mashed potatoes are a comfort food for which most children have a ritual, whether using them to disguise disliked foods or combining them with favorites.

OCLC WorldCat record
Comfort food : 102 recipes to nourish the soul as well as the body
by Sue Kreitzman
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: New York : Harmony Books, ©1986.

OCLC WorldCat record
Comfort foods.
by BL Finch
Type:  Article; English
Publication: Health progress (Saint Louis, Mo.) 1987 Sep; 68(7): 94
Database: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

New York (NY) Times
On Language
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Published: July 6, 2003
On the cover of ‘’Cooking for Comfort,’’ her new book of ‘’recipes that are as satisfying to cook as they are to eat,’’ the New York Times food columnist Marian Burros chose a picture of an inviting bowl of macaroni and cheese. Just to look at it is to rub your tummy and feel better. But what turned comfort into an attributive noun modifying food?

Although the Southernism comfort pie may have been the predecessor phrase, the earliest use I can find is in ‘’The Thin Book,’’ a 1966 work by ‘’a formerly fat psychiatrist’’ named Theodore Isaac Rubin. The book’s ad copy read, ‘’Learn about ammunition foods, comfort foods and emergency foods.’’ Reached in New York, Dr. Rubin recalls: ‘’I just made it up; I didn’t hear it anywhere. It means food that makes you feel good, that was always available and would help to sustain a diet.’’ (’’Ammunition foods’’ never made it into the canon.)

Burros was largely responsible for the term’s popularization. In a 1985 Times column titled ‘’Turning to Food for Solace,’’ she wrote that the restaurateur George Lang, owner of New York’s Café des Artistes, ‘’said his comfort foods ‘are foods I can eat any time, whether I’m full or not. . . . Comfort foods are the perfect tranquilizer.’ ‘’ Lang said, ‘’My whole childhood is brought back with goose liver,’’ and the sophisticated food columnist revealed her own nostalgia for spaghetti and meat sauce or a tuna-fish sandwich. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, August 03, 2008 • Permalink