I can still remember the smell walking into Regina’s Pizzeria in Boston’s North End. A sea of humanity packed into an iconic building all craving that beautiful marriage of sauce, crust and cheese. Each bite is a perfect representation of flavor, texture, fat and acid.
Their pizza isn’t just delicious, it’s craveable.
For me, really good food is broken down into two different categories.
1. Delicious: A great dish but I will forget about it in a week.
2. Craveable: A great dish but I will NEED IT in about a week.
We all have different foods we consider comfort foods. Where you grew up geographically and personal likes and dislikes play a significant factor in what we crave, but certain foods tend to be in the “comfort food” categories. Foods like pizza, pasta, fried chicken, hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies tend to be western comfort foods.
Every time I eat a peanut butter cookie fresh from the oven, I am reminded of the cookies my mother would bake when I was a child. Psychologists have a term for this “flashback,” it’s called, “The Madeleine Effect.” Marcel Proust wrote in “À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu” that,
“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.”
Also known as, “The Proustian effect, it involves involuntary memories. Involuntary memory is a memory that brings us back to a moment in time. In this case, a bite of food brings us back to a time in our lives when we remember a moment involving the stimulus. Comfort food often elicits this effect in many. We can all think of a dish that brings us back to our loved one’s kitchens.
Comfort food is playing a major role in the COVID-19 pandemic. As restaurants search for ways to survive social distancing measures, we see a major shift toward comfort foods as a form of salvation. Many comfort foods lend themselves to carry out much better than high end cuisine. No one wants a smashed box of foie gras terrine or a soggy microgreen salad in a dilapidated cardboard box.