I was passing through security at the Barcelona, Spain airport, coming back to the States, when a suspicious inspector zipped open my carry hand bag and looked wide-eyed at it’s contents: packages of paella rice, Catalan noodles, cans of Spanish clams (berberechos) and olives with anchovies. “Are you smuggling something or what?” he asked.
I looked at him apologetically and grinned as I explained, “It’s hard to find these things in the USA, and if I do they´re are too expensive. I need to feel at home and make my favorite dishes.” He gave me a puzzled look before letting me go.
My husband always complaints, “More rice, more berberechos?” You already have enough to supply the entire northeast.¨ But having enough of Spain in my pantry gives me a sense of ease.
Everyone in every culture has their comfort food. When I was a child my mom would always make her chicken soup with rice. I didn’t like it. I would go across the hall to our neighbor and my god mother, who would give me packaged chicken soup with noodles. That tasted wonderful though my mother never understood why I preferred the powdered soup to her natural version. “Mom, chicken soup tastes better with noodles than with rice”. She never changed her recipe and my taste didn’t change either. So packaged chicken soup with thin noodles became my food of choice.
I remembered this last week when I felt a need of comfort food and I opened a package of my Catalan noodles and my chicken broth brought from Spain to bring me back the memories of a time when this was what comforted me.
A while ago my husband was ill and as I was heading to work so I asked friends to check on him. “How did it go?” I asked them. “Well,” they said, “we offered to get some medicine but he just wanted cottage cheese.” When I got home he asked me to make him macaroni (elbow noodles) with cottage cheese and butter, the food that he remembered from his childhood. The food his mother made for him when he was ill.
Comfort food is the food that takes us to a safe place where we remember we always felt good. We go back to it when we need to. I didn’t know how to make macaroni and cottage cheese. It seemed like a strange combination. I added a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the side (peanut butter, yeach. I have no taste for it). But this was his comfort.
Today my husband makes breakfast. Peanut butter toast for him and my Catalan bread rubbed with fresh tomato, olive oil and a little salt for me.
I feel we are all lucky to have memories of tastes and foods that makes us feel better every morning!
Christina’s radio show, Tu Voz con Christina, is at 8 a.m. every Sunday on Pocono 96.7. Email: Christina@pocono967.com