It's something that was already on my mind, but it seems everywhere I look this week it's all about comfort food. The grand dames of the blogging roundtable have been posting about it. The Food Network site has a page devoted to it. And someone reminded me of a post I'd penned some time back talking about my grandmother's kitchen. It's been one of those seasons, that I crave comfort.
Italy is all about the food. You know that. Here you find fabulously fresh foods, prepared simply but with great end results. When not cooking or consuming food, they talk about food. Seriously. Very few conversations don't take a culinary turn at some point. And many of the foods in this region are familiar, family recipes. I just didn't know it growing up. I assumed the dishes I ate as a child were generic "Italian" as passed down from my paternal grandmother. I didn't know that they were specifically "Lucani" as passed down to her from her mother, who came from a village less than 25 kilometers from where I live. That knowledge itself is comforting, it makes me feel even more connected here.
As for specific foods that I crave when feeling moody or needing a soul surge, I return to recipes of the various periods and places of my life. Sometimes it's the aromas of my grandma's house. Sense of smell quickly takes me there. In fact, today I made applesauce, just like Grams used to make it. The apple-cinnamon scent filled the air and lifted my spirits. Sometimes it's my nana's kitchen, in the form of meatballs and sausage simmering in sauce. When I'm not feeling so hot, I turn to pastina with butter and parmigiano, the classic comfort food in our house when we had the flu or a trembly tummy. And sometimes it's a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile sauce, one of my preferred plates in New Mexico. Yesterday I made good ol' mac and cheese, which is sort of a melding of my American and Italian palates (pasta, cheesey, saucey...good!) Tomorrow I'm thinking chicken pot pie.
I tend to have more comfort cravings in the late fall, when winter is on its way, when the days are shortening, when there's a chill in the air and a lowness of heart at the encroaching coldness and darkness of winter. Even though inverno really isn't severe here, it's just the loss of summer and the diminishing sunshine that lays me a little low. But a whiff of applesauce, the scent of sauce, and a bite of burrito help. A lot.