What is my comfort food? I ask myself and there is no easy answer. I enjoy almost any kind of food that is fresh and homemade, but there is something special about food being brought to you. My mother’s top comfort food was hot roti ( puffy, flat bread) right off the griddle, served to her during lunch or dinner. It put a smile on her face. When I asked her, “Why?” Her answer was “Nobody other than Beji (her mother) has made fresh hot rotis for me. I felt special!” Otherwise, she was only happy when I came first in class, hand-washed dirty clothes (laundry machines were not that common) and swept the floor when the maid did not show up.
Kichdi (daal-rice mush) at home and Idlee (soft steamed rice cakes) when he was walking around town, put a smile on my father’s face. “Food should feel good and light on the stomach,” was his mantra. My husband likes Upma (a savory, semolina dish) because it’s warm and crisp texture feels perfect. Rice and daal, is an all time favorite with my boys, niece and most of my relatives. No wonder here! It is warm, satisfying, very clean and convenient too, as you can shovel spoonfuls of it into your mouth, while reading a book or playing an intense game of chess.
My brother’s favorite is a warm potato-filled bun with fresh malai (cream) on the top. Fresh malai (cream) is the yummiest thing in the world, especially the thick layer that rises to the top when the milk is boiled and then thickens as it cools overnight in the fridge. This malai is often turned into butter and later on into ghee, but it is so luscious and juicy in its original form. It is best on top of a slice of fresh bread, a roll from the bakery or on a hot steaming idlee. No other form of fresh cream comes close to malai.
“What is your comfort food?” I text my friends from India. The unanimous choice was Bisibele Bath (spicy blend of daal, rice & veggies) followed by Dosa (crispy crepe) because it is warm, crunchy, melts in your mouth and reminds you of childhood. Also the Vadas (crunchy dumpling) made an entrance along with a steaming hot cup of filter coffee. Hmm! Rice with salty yoghurt is another comfort food, easy to make and easy on the stomach. As I pondered over the mystery of it all, I decided to cast the net a little wider, what would the preferred comfort food of my non-Indian friends?
Chicken noodle soup was the overwhelming favorite, then came macaroni & cheese, which are both soothing, warm, easy to make and a part of almost everyone’s childhood. Popcorn gets thrown into the mix, because it is convenient and satisfying. Then, canned mandarin oranges made an entry “It is because they are sweet, easy and remind me of sunshine”, my friend said. “Hawaiian food and filipino – pancit for me. I grew up with it“, said another friend. Mashed Potatoes and gravy made by grandma is an understandable favorite of another good friend. “My comfort food is gooey, warm, salty cheese, though it is not good for me,” said my writing friend. Hot and Spicy chilli on top of rice makes my walking friend feel warm and satisfied, Freshly baked bread with grandma for another… And then! Surprise, surprise! A lady who sells produce at the farmer’s market finds comfort in topping everything that she eats with just a touch of soy sauce, it is salty, savory and soothing.
Hot roti (puffy flat bread) with sabzi ( spiced – stir fried veggies), the food my mother made every day, makes me feel at home. But when I don’t feel like eating anything, then it is Warm milk on a slice of fresh bread or roll with sugar on top for me. My father started this tradition. Whenever, I was laying in bed, feeling unwell, he would appear with a tall steel glass of hot milk with lots of sugar in it along with a slice of fresh bread or roll from the bakery, imploring me to eat something to soothe my aching throat. Then, I discovered that I could make it extra special with a sprinkle of spices.
A ladle of hot milk simmering with a sprinkle of turmeric, saffron and cardamom on a soft roll split in half…yum, warm, soothing and comforting!
So what is your comfort food?
Recipe for flavored Milk
1 cup of regular/ almond milk
1/4 tsp of tumeric powder
2-3 strands of saffron crushed
a pinch of ginger powder
1/8- 1/4 tsp of crushed cardamom
1 – 2 tsp coconut sugar/ honey
- Heat the milk on med-low with all the spices in it, till it comes to a slow boil can take about 3 – 5 minutes..
- Add the sweetener
The flavored milk makes a delicious drink that also has healing properties. I like it poured on a slice of bread with a sprinkle of crushed pistachios, kind of like Rasmalai Yum!