Comfort food is traditional food which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the consumer, and is often characterized by a high carbohydrate level and simple preparation. The nostalgic element most comfort food has may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture.
The term comfort food has been traced back at least to 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.”
Comfort foods may be consumed to positively pique emotions, to relieve negative psychological effects or to increase positive feelings.
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.
A partial list by country of comfort foods around the world.
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
- Lamb and vegetable soup or Irish stew
- Lamb chops
- 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
- Vegemite on toast
- Cottage or Shepherd's pie
- Fish and chips
- Full English breakfast
- Bangers and mash
- Cauliflower cheese
- Cornish pasty
- Fruit Crumble
- Lancashire hotpot
- Mushy peas
- Boiled egg and toast soldiers Toast sliced into approximately four pieces lengthwise, to dip into soft-boiled egg yolk.
- 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. In Indonesia, the warm and soft texture of bubur ayam is believed to help people to recover during convalescence. 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:
Some Polish comfort food include:
- Barszcz z uszkami (clear beetroot soup with forest mushrooms tortellini)
- Boczek (Smoked pork belly)
- Bigos (hunters stew)
- Budyń waniliowy z malinami (vanilla pudding with raspberries)
- Kotlet schabowy (pork schnitzel)
- Flaki (tripe)
- Gulasz (goulash)
- Zupa grzybowa (Mushroom soup)
- Jagody ze śmietaną (blueberries with cream)
- Kapuśniak (sauerkraut soup)
- Kopytka (polish gnocchi)
- Makaron ze śmietaną i truskawkami (pasta with cream and strawberries)
- Mielone z ziemniakami i mizerią (pork burgers with mashed potato and fresh cucumbers sour cream salad)
- Naleśniki z twarogiem (pancakes with milk curd)
- Zupa ogórkowa (cucumber soup)
- Placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes)
- Rosół (Chicken soup with fine noodles)
- Sernik (baked cheesecake)
- Śledź w oleju (Pickled herring)
- Zupa pomidorowa (clear tomato soup with rice or noodles)
- Zupa szczawiowa (sorrel soup served with boiled egg)
- Żurek (sour rye soup)
- Arroz blanco con habichuelas guisadas con calabaza, bistec encebollado y papas fritas - White rice with stewed beans with pumpkin, onions steak and fries
- Arroz con gandules - Rice with pigeon peas
- Carne frita con tostones - Fried pork with fried plantains
- Carne mechada -Puerto Rican style meatloaf
- Cuchifritos - Fritanga: Assortment of fried appetizers: Alcapurrias, bacalaitos, piononos, sorrullos
- Lechón asado - roast pork
- Mixta - White rice, stewed beans with pumpkin and stewed meat with potatoes and carrots
- Mofongo -Fried mashed green plantains
- Mofongo relleno de mariscos, carne o pollo - Fried mashed green plantains stuffed with seafood, meat or chicken
- Pasteles - Puerto Rican tamales
- Pastelón de plátano maduro - Ripe banana casserole with ground beef and cheddar cheese
- Pinchos - Puerto Rican skewers
- Sancocho - Popular stew broth, very succulent made from different ingredients; it may contain, among others, beef, pork, tubers, vegetables and herbs.
- Sopón - rice soup with chicken or shrimp
- Tripleta -Criollo bread sandwich, ham, steak and chicken, mayonnaise, ketchup and tomato salad and cabbage
Russia and Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian comfort foods may include but are not limited to:
In Turkish, comfort food is closest in meaning to the term Turkish: Anne yemeği, "mother's dish", especially in terms of providing a nostalgic feeling, or Turkish: Ev yemeği, "home dish". Some of Turkish comfort foods are:
American comfort foods may include the following foods:
- Apple pie
- Baked beans
- Biscuits and gravy
- Cabbage rolls
- Chicken soup
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Clam chowder
- Dinner rolls
- French fries
- Fried chicken
- Green bean casserole
- Grilled cheese sandwich and Tomato soup
- Hot dog
- Ice cream
- Macaroni and cheese
- Mashed potatoes
- Peanut butter
- Pecan pie
- Pot roast
- Red beans and rice
- Diet food
- Dish (food)
- Food group
- Food presentation
- Haute cuisine
- List of foods
- List of nutrition guides
- Outline of food preparation
- Portion size
- Whole food
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