Thursday, October 13, 2011

Comfort Food

Now that the weather has turned the corner and has decidedly committed to a fall forecast, we've shifted our menu to one better suited for sweaters and early evenings.  Something about those first crisp days just makes me want to get my soup pot out and warm up the oven.  In general, fall foods are just a bit more comforting--probably because they employ the use of a lot more butter and heavier meats.  Unfortunately, we've had other reasons to need a little comfort food around here lately.  Our wonderful dog was rushed to the vet a week and a half ago, and after undergoing a battery of tests we learned that his kidneys were not operating well.  Despite the grim news and an overnight stay at the vet, he returned home much happier and more vital.  We were told that he could live many years with his condition, but it was not to be.  He died very suddenly on Monday.  I didn't know it was possible to feel so heartbroken, and Niek and I have had a very difficult week.  We're sad that he's gone, and we're especially sad that our daughter will never get to know him.

Newborns, I have learned, leave very little time to wallow in grief; diapers still need to be changed and hungry babies wait for no man.  For all the seemingly mundane tasks of early motherhood I am grateful.  Even with a little one capitalizing on all my waking hours, I felt compelled to take the time to make at least a little food to make us feel better.  That is why I forced my tired self into the kitchen yesterday to put on a huge pot of chili.  Even more importantly for me, I found the time to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  While a good friend of mine sat on the couch holding my baby, I stood in the kitchen baking cookies with my imported supply of baking supplies.  It all felt so wonderfully calm and normal to make such an easy recipe even if I also felt rundown and sleep-deprived.

Making recipes from my childhood did make me wonder what the Dutch consider comfort food.  The day we took Dantes to the vet, my father-in-law came over and made stewed rabbit with egg noodles.  I would put that in the category of comfort food (definitely amazing food) but I wouldn't call the recipe typically Dutch.  I asked Niek about this last night, and he couldn't come up with a single dish.  I thought it might be something like stampot, the dish of mashed potatoes with kale and smoked sausage.  Maybe a nice apple pie?  Whatever the Dutch comfort foods might be, I'm not sure I will ever turn to them in a time of crisis no matter how long I live here.  When I have an emotional emergency, I'm pretty sure I'll always turn to the foods of my youth.  I'm surprised I didn't make a casserole.  If they sold condensed cream of mushroom soup here, I probably would have.  If there were to be a cornerstone ingredient for American comfort food, I do believe that would be it.

While we miss our sweet pup, our lives continue to be very full and busy.  I am grateful for all the good things in my life, and I'm grateful for my kitchen when I need a little cheering up.  


  1. Hachee, probably, though stamppot sounds good right now, is the closest to Dutch comfort food.

    So sorry to hear about Dantes.

  2. Steve,
    Just looked up the recipe, and I will need to add this dish to my list of cold-weather foods. Glad you had a suggestion, since my Dutch husband was coming up with nothing.

  3. Scrapple is Pennsylvania Dutch, but it was a comfort staple in my family: fried corn meal mush with pork or chicken necks - I liked mine with maple syrup - unfortunately, my family recipe is missing and I haven't been able to recreate it. Not exactly Dutch, though; it must've come from some European idea originally.