Here's the thing. Although I'm skinny and can eat pretty much what I like (caveat: I am overdue for a cholesterol test), I really, really balk at that term. Not that I disapprove of the kind of meals that are, as it were, the meat and drink of comfort food. From creamed potatoes to melted cheese, nib-shot chocolate to chop-chop salad, or whatever your fancy: it's all dandy and just what the doctor ordered. Even if she didn't.
No. What gets me is "comfort" as a prefix. It has far too much of a tone of apology for my liking: like the tiresome "sinful desserts" and "guilty pleasures", but far more insidious. It isn't comfort food, people: it's just food. It's the food you wanted at that particular time. You're a good person. You identified your appetite for it, bought it, cooked it, ate it. Good on you. Oh, and for all you know, your body was biochemically crying out for it.
After all, you don't hear about "vexation food". You don't wake up feeling secure and buoyant, and declare that on those grounds you'll go find a bisque that has a few regrets.
Comfort food. I ask you.
There's an online video doing the rounds right now in which a female news anchor puts a viewer in his place for making unpleasant comments about her being large. Excellent stuff. But, of course, folks of various weights are the victims of bullying and snottiness. I've worked in and around ballet enough to know about the despicable misery of already-skinny teen dancers being advised to lose a pound or two by adults who should know better and whose fuckwittedness beggars belief. Young women and men who should be eating pizza while having a laugh with their pals can soon find themselves in caloric and psychological tortures. Literally.
So we owe it to ourselves, and to each other, not to buy even remotely into any of this bullshit or bullying by prodding ourselves with little linguistic forks like "comfort food". We're all adults. We know the basics of nutrition and exercise: we can keep an eye on ourselves and, if we like, turn that into a blind eye once in a while. And if we do feel as though we've been on a bit of a spree, the best thing is just to remember that getting a little exercise to counter-balance it is not a question of flaying ourselves for our excess. It's just a matter of getting a bit active in a way that we enjoy. That we like doing. That's fun. Just fancy that.
And now to confront the one defense of the dread phrase for which I'd have time, were it not folded so often into a bigger bowl of guilt. "Matt," people say, "you don't get it. Comfort foods are just foods that we associate with the fireside; with that window seat at granny's; with warmth." Hmmm. Okay. I'll buy a few ounces of that... from the hard end of the cheese, please... but I'm not convinced. I believe that that's what you ate in the window seat, and I love to hear about how much it means to you: but I also have a hunch that it contained more than a touch of butter, raspberry jelly, or sour cream. (And why not, indeed?) Put another way: if these nostalgic meals were typically raw parsnip and diet soda, for how much longer would the moniker "comfort food" stay in currency?
It's time for a separation between church and stomach.