A long time ago in a land far away, I stood arms open wide to receive my first real winter snow falling from the night sky. The white flakes drifted in a downward spiral from a darkened backdrop of European houses and leafless trees. They came out of nowhere, the powdered sugar of Mother Nature’s recipe, silencing the world in a dome of white.
Not only is the softness of snow falling something splendid, but the softness of sound that echoes back in a muffled quiet, a charmed solitude. I was thoroughly enchanted and could only stand and watch and listen in awe as each crystal landed in its preordained spot.
Growing up in southern California left my winters without snowballs to throw or front yards blanketed in white where snowmen guarded their creator’s castle. We did make trips up to the mountains after the snow fell, but by that time it was wet and ready to freeze up. But there is nothing like the white crystals ever so lightly caressing the face with a pinprick of icy coldness to awaken the soul.
I always equate Christmas with that time, and if I ever feel lost, frustrated or overwhelmed from the holidays, it’s there in my memory that I wander to regenerate. It’s where I feel cocooned and safe in the arms of a snowy winter gone past.
A grey sky seems to dominate the season this year, drizzly rain a coastal washout from the enchantment of steady snowfall. The need to find my own peaceful white Christmas has grown to encompass more than just a memory. It’s something every household manifests in times of hard working days, sneezy-achy bodies or simply the age-old blues.
It takes the one ultimate sense – taste – and brings it up front and center to cure the ailments that besiege us all now and then. It goes by the name of comfort food.
We all have our ultimate divine food that brings peace to the weary self. Some take comfort food to a whole different level where it becomes another problem instead of comforting the burden of the real problem. What I am speaking of is the comfort of being handed a bowl of homemade chicken soup while a stuffy nose and cranky cough racks the body. It’s not necessarily the chicken that does the good, though studies have shown a certain protein in the chicken itself holds the key to its healing properties. Nor is it the overwhelming relief found from a psychological response to emotional stress when reaching for a candy bar. It’s the homemade part that is key to knowing the true value of comfort food. Realize homemade anything has a certain element that is lyrically infused with the goodwill of whoever made it, be it of love or kindness or gratitude.
When coming home down-trodden from the days’ woes, a favorite bowl of macaroni and cheese sitting on the table made with a smile in the heart from someone who cares transfers that unseen ingredient of good energy right from that bowl, to the mouth, to the soul.
My father used that very ingredient with his special apple fritters he graciously made for those who needed a happy hello in life. And when I was young, the boloney sandwich made by my grandmother, with real mayonnaise on white bread with a side of Fritos (read: ingredients not found anywhere in my childhood home) radiated with an energy that said I love you.
My own comfort food has grown beyond that of boloney, but given one more chance to sit next to my grandma with one of her sandwiches in hand, my mouth would water at the thought of just one more bite.
Comfort food comes right down to the love and affection that is lavished into the food as one of the most important ingredient. And with kitchens all over filled with busy ovens and stocked refrigerators, the homemade factor figures prominently in the holiday creations that lie in wait, whether it’s cookies for Santa or holiday roast beast.
The fact that it shall be made with wonderful intentions classifies it as a comfort food, a little bit of magic that snows the room with a flurry of happy holidays, peace and goodwill for all.