The Secret(ish) Truth About Comfort Food
We at Omaha Steaks consider ourselves connoisseurs of comfort food. Our headquarters are located smack-dab in the heart & soul of steak & potatoes country, for flan’s sake. But sometimes even we catch ourselves taking for granted this cozy, warm embrace of a food genre. That’s a bit of a shame.
Comfort food deserves better than tossed off mentions before winter storm season sets in. It’s so much more than a mouthwateringly delicious home-cooked holiday feast. Comfort food lives in our collective culinary DNA, which means not one of us is immune to its allure. We love comfort food. It soothes us when we need soothing most. These uncomplicated foods pick us up when we feel low. Whether you’re inclined to indulge with chocolate, nachos, STEAK, meatloaf, or mac & cheese, comfort food delivers distinctive pleasure that triggers sorts of life-affirming emotions.
To that end, as part of our ongoing effort to elevate this beloved food category to its rightful place reigning over all other gustatory delights, we present our secret(ish) history of comfort food.
Who decided to call it “Comfort Food” anyway?
Short answer: author and renowned food critic Phyllis Richmond. Oxford English Dictionaries attribute the term’s first print mention to Richmond. She used the term in a 1977 Washington Post Magazine article, in which she described shrimp and grits as comfort food. Mmmmm… shrimp and grits…
How do you know whether or not you’re eating comfort food?
Comfort food is considered by many to be a salve that soothes negative feelings. Because of this, no hard rule can help you distinguish between what is and what isn’t comfort food. Generally speaking, comfort foods boast simplistic yet rich flavor profiles, and texturally, they tend to be easy on the chompers. Rarely are they exceedingly spicy, but exceptions exist. Chili and curries can bring significant heat, and yet, they’re considered comfort by people all over the globe. When it comes to comfort food, any dish is fair game — as long as you feel good while devouring it.
Chefs, what’s your opinion of comfort food?
Simplicity is a defining characteristic of comfort food. Hence comfort food occupies a special place within the hearts and minds of the architects of our gastronomic delight (chefs!). The realm of comfort food was born from easy-to-follow and minimal recipes being passed from generation to generation. This is by design. Comfort foods are food of the people. Most comfort food recipes serve as a mere template — the comfort food chef usually puts their own spin on it, crafting a dish that’s wholly unique and at once undeniably familiar. That’s why acclaimed chefs uniformly praise comfort food. These recipes let chefs showcase their fundamental chops AND experiment, which results in dishes that surprise and satisfy in equal measure.
Snacks, entrees, or dessert?
Depends who you ask. Comfort food preferences, as we noted earlier, are unusually (in terms of food categories, at least) personal. Though the eggheads among us have done some digging to see how we as a people consume these mythical treats. Studies show (notice we’re keeping it general here, if you want to know which studies we mean… hit the books) that men typically seek our meal-based comfort foods. Think STEAK, Crock-Pot® Slow Cooker Meals, or roasts. Women, on the other hand, lean toward snackier fare like crispy fried appetizers or poppable chocolates. While academic literature may offer evidence of this gender divide, we’re skeptical. Evidence also suggests that we find comfort in foods based mostly on nostalgia, geography, and heritage. In other words, our comfort food preferences are as individual as our senses of humor. If it makes you feel good, eat it!
Does it count as comfort food if it’s not homemade?
Of course! Comfort food comes in all kinds. In fact, you might find that ready-made comfort foods taste even better because they don’t require as much work to prepare. Omaha Steaks offers a vast variety of comfort foods that are good-to-gulp with varying amounts of effort. Amazing steaks, super simple and easy to customize Crock-Pot® Slow Cooker Meals, extra-savory meat snacks, ready-to-bake desserts, and of course, an array of chocolates and candy. Whatever you call comfort food… you’ll find it here.