Comfort Food

If there’s one thing I miss it’s the tantalizing aroma of crisp, buttermilk biscuits with the flakiness that is so soft and gooey that it literally melts in your mouth the moment you take a bite. It could be oozing with butter and fresh out of the oven. My grandmother was a maestro in the kitchen. Her country cooking was something to experience. Fried chicken wasn’t on the par with Kentucky Fried Chicken but it was cooked on a wood stove in a cast iron skillet. Green peas were smothered in sugar to give it the extra sweetness, cornbread tasted like heaven and her apple pies made the place smell as if you were in an oasis of sorts. It’s through those memories that comfort food reminds me of simpler times where the family would gather for a big meal before going out to work on the land.

Farming is not for the faint of heart. My favorite summertime vegetable is squash. I absolutely love some fried squash. It’s a comfort food for me that takes me back to my childhood. In fact, some of my favorite dishes that I shouldn’t eat have been staples in my diet for far too long. That’s why it’s a rebirth of sorts to begin the process of walking away from those foods. I have been a huge fan of yellow corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes, oranges, apples, pears, blueberries and blackberries. All of these things my family has grown in the past and often times you would find me plucking them straight off the vine or tree when they were ready. As a kid I could leave a calling card on what I had digested by what I wore on my shirt. Sometimes our favorite foods leave marks that we can’t deny.

Green beans were another favorite of mine but I detested stringing them. As for the taste, it had to have some sugar mixed into them or else I would turn my nose up at them. To say that my love of sugar filtered through my adult life is a vast understatement. That’s why it’s so much more difficult to change the patterns of what I consume versus what I don’t. Chocolate needs no explanation. I’ve often heard the phrase “Give me chocolate and nobody gets hurt.” While I don’t encourage violence of any kind, I can truly attest to the fact that chocolate has been a really good friend when life has made me question every judgment.

When I was a kid in elementary school, our class went to Old Salem. It’s a very well known area in Winston Salem, NC known for its colonial attire and ways of living. After the tour, we were taken to the bakery area. Oh man. The sweet aroma of cinnamon filled our nostrils with the lingering scent of brown sugar topped on a gooey, intertwined loaf of some of the sweetest bread I’ve ever consumed. Talk about a comfort food. I was in heaven.

I also discovered an incredible recipe for double chocolate brownie cheesecake. It was one of the few recipes I’d ever found that I had to bake the cheesecake along with the brownie mix combining for a chocolate oasis. The fudge oozed down the sizes with a creamy chocolate icing that lingered on the tongue. Every time I made that cheesecake, the folks around me reminded me that they would have to exercise for days just to have one piece. I haven’t made that recipe in a while. When you are trying to watch what you eat, it’s easy to fall off the wagon.

I’m sorry vegetarian friends but I’m a meat and potatoes girl. I’ve been cutting back on the meat intake but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to completely make the leap. The point that I’m making with all these insanely delicious items is that comfort foods play a huge part in our lives. We migrate to the things that calm us. For me, it’s a constant battle with foods with high sugar content. I am working very hard on making changes in my diet. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the struggles that go with that challenge.

Spaghetti and pizza are also some of my favorite meals. The problem with them is as I’ve gotten older, my body has a much more difficult time processing the sauce and the heaviness of italian dishes. They are definitely among my favorites but I have to make sure I don’t eat them in the evening or I will pay for it the rest of the night.

I have to be super careful with shellfish. I’m highly allergic so my friends who enjoy shrimp and other shellfish options usually get my portion. If there’s one thing that I wish I could have in seafood, it would be lobster. I love the taste but I just can’t have it. I will break out in hives and itch so much that it isn’t worth it.

No matter what kind of comfort food you crave, be aware that you aren’t alone. Even a person who is extremely conscientous of what they eat has moments where they crave some type of comfort food. It’s inevitable. We don’t have to let the comfort food control us though. What we do have to do is to acknowledge that it’s okay to splurge every once in a while but don’t do it everyday. Set boundaries for yourself and then start planning better meals and healthier options. You never know. You might find some incredible substitutes. For example, I have had to cut pineapple out of my diet. For one thing, the pineapple is extremely acidic and my system can’t process it well. So what I’m doing is replacing it with other fruits and vegetables. Carrots are becoming my friend. Celery is growing on me. I have never been a big celery person but I’m starting to acquire the taste for it. I’m cutting most salt out of my diet too. A lot of the more calorie intake comfort foods contain heavy salt content. My arteries will thank me later.

Research alternatives that will best suit you. I can’t tell you what kinds of foods to try because I have no clue what you all like. What I can tell you is that we all have to find foods that we enjoy and that are healthy for us. We already know what the unhealthy options are. If we are willing to change our habits, our comfort foods will change with us and that can leave a kitchen full of undiscovered and aromatic senses that we never knew existed.

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