Comfort Food

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Debbie Byrom

Last night the oil heater had to be creakily wheeled out from under the house, filling the house with that concerning burnt dust smell of appliances that have been lying dormant. A whole day had past, I was cold, it was 6pm and up to that point all I had eaten was two weetbix (not a wise move nutritionally I realise but sometimes these things just happen).

The blonde tried, in vain, to convince me that eating out was in order – that nesting in a warm restaurant somewhere, marinating in the fug of someone else’s cooking would be preferable to coming home to a cold house. I can see his point but I had tunnel vision.

I needed cauliflower cheese.

I was in need of comfort and I required comfort food. I made a big bowl of cauliflower cheese, wrapped myself in a rug on the couch and stuffed myself with hot cheesy goodness in front of the TV. It was true happiness, like a hug from the inside, if lacking a little something nutrition wise.

Comfort food is a very personal thing – my needs occupy a relatively narrow space incorporating starch and dairy. I am a self confessed potato addict – A good noodle soup would be the only outlier, particularly the beef dumpling soup from the T-mark lunch bar in Newmarket – I am so emotionally reliant on this soup that I feel I would be unable to move too far away from Auckland.

I lived in Dunedin for nine long winters. As a student with a weekly grocery bill of $20, culinary options were limited. I lived off these –

Ultimate comfort food potatoes

Baking potatoes

2 parts hoisin sauce

1 part whole grain mustard

Preheat oven to 200C.

Microwave potatoes until cooked or almost cooked. Remove and cut slices across the top, hasselback style (using a tea towel to hold the potatoes and prevent burns!). Place on a foil or baking paper lined plate. Mix together hoisin and mustard and spread mixture over the top of the potatoes, pushing it into the cuts as you go. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the tops have started to caramelise Allow to cool at least slightly before wolfing down in front of bad day time TV.

Real comfort food is quite primal and often not the healthiest or most glamorous and while emotional eating as such is considered a bad thing there is something deeply fulfilling about a bowl of exactly what you needed, just when you needed it most. What is your personal comfort food?

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