Feature Article: Comfort Food throughout Generations

by | Nov 23, 2021 | Featured Article | 0 comments

Comfort foods evolve over the years as part of generations of good food that we collectively enjoy.

Comfort Food is generally defined as food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being or happiness. Most comfort foods come in the form of a high sugar or carbohydrate content. Most comfort foods around the world are strongly associated with childhood or home cooking. Although different cultures and peoples share the idea, comfort food varies depending on the food traditions of a particular place, race, or culture. Comfort also varies from generation to generation. In Eleanor Gaccetta’s cookbook titled Generations of Good Food, pastries, cookies, and other sweets are the typical comfort foods. But home-cooked dishes can also serve as comfort foods, especially when shared with the family.

“Potatoes were the 1970s original “comfort food,” when the phrase still appeared in quotation marks in newspaper lifestyles sections. Minnelli preferred hers baked with sour cream, pepper, and butter.”

But even before Minnelli’s famous definition of comfort food which is “anything you just yum, yum, yum,” there were already a lot of comfort foods before the 1970s. In Mexico, comfort food can mean tamales, a dish made from shredded pork in a red chili sauce with green olives. For most Chinese, congee with dried scallops, preserved egg and salted pork, and whitefish is the ultimate comfort food. For Italians, it is any pasta dish with either red or white sauce.   These are examples of classic comfort foods that have been part of their respective culture for many decades, handed down from generation to generation just like other home-cooked meals.

However, comfort foods are also evolving. With modernity and the fast-paced city life, fast foods have become comfort food as well. Old traditional beverages are redesigned to fit the needs of people always on the go. Drinking tea nowadays means drinking it from a cold plastic bottle or a cup of milk tea(chai) with various flavors.  

Comfort foods vary from generation and are continuously evolving for the simple reason that we have our collective consciousness and experiences vary from generation to generation, defining our taste.

Comfort foods from three or four generations ago were a lot different from the foods kids crave today. Before, comfort foods were greatly associated with home-cooked dishes that our mothers would prepare for us. Baked sweets, light meals, and traditional dishes are basically what comfort foods mean. The idea of consuming something associated with home, family, friends, and the familiar lifts our spirits and reassures us. Comfort food nourishes not only the body but also our emotions, and we forget our worries.

Today, comfort foods are more like cravings and de-stressors. And unlike from generations of old, most comfort foods are not based on cultural food traditions. In this age of Globalization, comfort foods are dictated by marketing trends, of what’s hip and new. What is comfort food or drink today will probably be replaced with something new after several months. While old dishes and traditional foods are also making a comeback, many of them are re-packaged and reinvented to suit the market demands.

Comfort food in today’s generation means food-on-the-go, foods that are “Instagramable,” trendy foods. But one idea that still clings to comfort food is consolation. The worries of today’s generation may be a lot different from what our ancestors faced during their time. Still, food brings out happiness. Whether it’s anxiety, stress, pressure, at work or school, today’s generation manages to find consolation in the food they eat. Whether it’s healthy or not is another story.

Eleanor Gaccetta is the author of the amazing cookbook Generations of Good Food. It is a collection of classic home recipes that are easy to learn. You can purchase the book via ReadersMagnet, or you can visit her website for more information.

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