Comfort food is traditionally eaten food which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it, frequently with a high carbohydrate level and a simple preparation. The nostalgic element most comfort food has, may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture.
Comfort foods may be consumed to positively pique emotions, to relieve negative psychological effects or to increase positive feelings. The term was first used, according to Webster's Dictionary, in 1977.
One study divided college-students' comfort-food identifications into four categories (nostalgic foods, indulgence foods, convenience foods, and physical comfort foods) with a special emphasis on the deliberate selection of particular foods to modify mood or effect, and indications that the medical-therapeutic use of particular foods may ultimately be a matter of mood-alteration.
The identification of particular items as comfort food may be idiosyncratic, though patterns are detectable. In one study of American preferences, "males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup), while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age." The study also revealed strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt.
Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress and, consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States. The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.
Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women. The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress. For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.
A therapeutic use of these findings includes offering comfort foods or "happy hour" beverages to anorectic geriatric patients whose health and quality of life otherwise decreases with reduced oral intake.
Comfort foods by country
Australia and New Zealand
- Apple pie
- Baked rice custard
- Bread and butter pudding
- Braised lamb shanks
- Brown sugar, yogurt, honey, and banana porridge
- Butterscotch apple dumplings
- Casserole (beef or chicken)
- Chicken soup
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Golden syrup pikelets
- Honey and oat slices
- Hungarian lamb goulash
- Lamb and vegetable soup or Irish stew
- Mashed potatoes
- Meat pie
- Pea and ham soup
- Pie floater
- Pumpkin soup
- Roast meat (beef, chicken, or pork with crackling)
- Roast potatoes
- Sausage and mash
- Shepherd's pie
- Spaghetti and meatballs
- Steak and kidney pie
- Sticky date pudding
- Sweet potato soup
- Cottage or Shepherd's pie
- Fish and chips
- Full English breakfast
- Bangers and mash
- Cauliflower cheese
- Cornish pasty
- Apple crumble
- Blueberry crumble
- Rhubarb crumble
- Lancashire hotpot
- Mushy peas
- Roast meat
- Scotch egg
- Stottie cake
- Soups and stews
- Toad in the hole
Some popular Indonesian foods are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, and soupy or with a soft texture. Some Indonesian comfort foods are traditional Indonesian food and some are derived from Chinese influences. For some Indonesians, especially those who are abroad, comfort food might also be a certain brand or type of Indonesian instant noodle, such as Indomie Mi goreng. Indonesian comfort foods include:
Polish comfort food include the following foods:
- Barszcz z uszkami (clear beetroot soup with forest mushrooms tortellini)
- Boczek (Smoked pork belly)
- Budyn waniliowy z malinami
- Kotlet schabowy
- Grzybowa (Mushroom soup)
- Jagody ze smietana
- Kapusniak (sauerkraut soup)
- Makaron ze smietana i truskawkami
- Mielone z ziemniakami i mizeria (pork meatballs, mashed potato, fresh cucumbers with sour cream)
- Nalesniki z twarozkiem
- Placki ziemniaczane
- Rolady z kluskami i modra kapusta
- Rosol (Chicken soup with fine noodles)
- Sledz w oleju (Pickled herring)
- Zupa pomidorowa with rice or noodles
- Szczawiowa served with boiled egg
Russia and Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian comfort foods include the following foods:
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- Indomie - Mi Goreng
- Comfort Food Helps Indonesian Maid Recover
- BBC: Barack Obama's Indonesia charm offensive
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- Media related to Comfort food at Wikimedia Commons