Of Comfort Food and Nostalgia
What is comfort food? The phrase means different things to different people but to me it simply means the aroma of home cooked food. Simple and delicious, food I’ve grown up eating and crave from time to time. After a bad or good day, its the longing for something familiar, craving for something nostalgic.
I left home a while ago and though I go back at least twice in a year, the days I crave for comfort food most are when I’m ill. When I’m lying in bed sipping warm tea with honey, my mind searches for childhood memories, tastes I imbibed during my younger days, the tastes I long for…
The past week I had a long phone conversation with my mother. We discussed everything under the sun. From films to posters, music to theater, Bengali food to Kerala’s famous beef curry. I kept telling her how much I was missing home food. I guess it was one of those days when I wasn’t well and things weren’t going the way I had planned. So she told me, “Make something you like.” That’s when the idea struck.
So for the past few days I’ve been cooking my comfort food. I was surprised to find that though I love experimenting with every cuisine I can lay my hands on, what I end up cooking when I’m low is Indian food from various parts of the country but with a twist conceptualised by my mother.
Bread Upma from school
A very close friend used to bring this concoction to school almost thrice a week for tiffin. The aroma of the spices mixed with bread pieces left us wanting more every time. I remember I asked my mother to ask T’s mother how to make it. And since that day in class 3, my mother makes it when I’m home and hungry! The flavour combination is so delicious that when its being cooked, you can smell it from the other room. Tangy and crisp, spicy and yet subtle the textures just leaves you wanting more. It’s so simple to recreate that the whole process barely takes 15 minutes!
Chirer pulao, Bong style
In English we would call it fried flaked rice stirred in with vegetables and spices. Chire (poha) is eaten all over India but every region uses it differently. My mom makes it the way her mother used to. It has little pieces of potato and onion and tomato softened to perfection with whole spices (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom). It’s slightly sweet and you serve it hot with a good scattering of chopped coriander. I love this. It gives me a feeling of home every time I make it. It light, delicate and filling, a perfect breakfast dish.
The quintessential Bengali lunch
I’ve said before that we didn’t eat a lot of Bengali food on a regular basis growing up but on occasions just some fluffy rice, potato fry and yellow dal is all you needed to have a great day. I just added my version of an egg curry along with it made with tomatoes and yoghurt. On occasions when I really crave comfort food, I turn to this simple home-style lunch to get me through the day.
What do you eat when you crave something comforting?