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Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Psychological studies
- 3 By country
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
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." They are believed to be a great coping mechanism for rapidly soothing negative feelings.
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. An article, "The Myth of Comfort Food" asserted that men tend to choose these types of savory comfort foods because they remind them of being "pampered" or spoiled, while women choose snack-related foods because they are associated with low amounts of work and less "cleanup." It also suggested that women are more likely to reach for unhealthier foods in times of stress due to more weight-conscious mindsets.
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
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich
- Beef steak
- Bran muffins
- Cabbage rolls
- Chili and beans
- Chocolate bars
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Cinnamon buns
- Egg salad sandwich
- Fish and chips
- French toast
- Fried chicken
- Fried rice
- Ginger beef
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Hot chocolate
- Ice cream
- Kippered herring
- Macaroni and cheese
- Mashed potatoes
- Milk shake
- Nanaimo bar
- Oatmeal cookies
- Pea soup
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Potatoes such as French fries, Hash browns, Potato chips, and Potato salad
- Reuben sandwich
- Rhubarb pie
- Roast turkey
- Scrambled eggs on toast
- Spaghetti and meatballs
- Tomato soup
Comfort food in India usually varies between states and cities. Typically it is freshly eaten and easily available at roadside eateries or shops. Homemade food, especially by mothers, has a high sentimental value. This includes a very common Indian comfort food known as khichdi (made of lightly spiced rice and dal, usually served with ghee).
- Bhel puri
- Aloo puri
- Vada pav
- Masala dosa
- Misal Pav
- Basundi: well-loved sweet made by condensing milk to give it a grainy texture
- Bread pakoda
Some popular Indonesian foods are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, and soupy or with a soft texture. Comfort foods often are the kind of food that provides nostalgic sentiments, as they often called masakan rumahan (home cooking) or masakan ibu (mother's dishes). 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)
- Pierogi 
- 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:
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