Comfort Food

This past weekend Don and I drove to our neighboring state of Illinois1 to attend a wedding anniversary celebration2 of long time friends.  As we were driving along Interstate 803, I noticed a big sign advertising a well-known restaurant chain4.  This chain of restaurants is found all over the U.S, but it does not serve fast food5.  A person goes there for a “sit-down” meal of standard favorite types of food6—roast beef, salads, soups, home baked bread, and good desserts.  What I noticed on the sign, though, were the words “comfort food.”7 


The term “comfort food” has been on my mind for the past week or so because of conversations I’ve had with good friends here in the U.S. and an email from a very good friend in China.  It all started one evening when Kim’s friend Mark was here for dinner.  We were eating baked potatoes8 (among other things) and I mentioned that for me a nice baked potato was my number one comfort food.  Mark said it was close to that for him but his top comfort food is tuna fish and noodle casserole9; Don said his is a big egg sandwich10 and Kim said that hers is a nice piece of cheddar cheese11.  A few nights later when we were having a meal at the home of a friend I mentioned the conversation, and everyone there had comfort food selections too.  I also mentioned this in an e-mail to my good friend in China.  She answered back that she didn’t know the term “comfort food” but that she could guess what it meant; then  she went on to tell me the favorite comfort foods of both her husband and herself.  She also asked me if “comfort food” is a general term or just a regionalism12 here.  I thought it a general term, so was happily excited to see it on the big roadside sign.  In fact, after we crossed the Mississippi River13 into the state of Illinois, I saw it on another sign as we approached Springfield14, our destination.


This morning I decided to see if the term is in the dictionary.  I went to my favorite dictionary,  MERRIAM-WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 10TH EDITION.  Sure enough15, there was a listing for “comfort food” and the definition was “food prepared in a traditional style having usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal16.”  I think that is a good definition for my understanding of the term.  I think of baked potatoes as delicious food, but I also associate them with my happy childhood memories17 of when my mother would bake them on a cold winter night.  We would come into the house after playing in the snow, would sniff18 their delicious odor, and then happily anticipate19 the meal to come.


This week is Thanksgiving week20.  Many items of comfort food will be on the menu21 in many homes Thursday.  Since I won’t fix baked potatoes (my children like escalloped potatoes22 on Thanksgiving) my real comfort food will be pumpkin pie23; Don’s will be turkey24 as well as cranberry salad25.  Kim’s will be pecan pie26 and Jim’s will be green bean casserole27 and turkey. 


This will truly be the week for comfort food throughout the United States, but it will not be the same everywhere.  Friday I read an article in a newspaper about Thanksgiving dinner in Alaska.28   It said that this year in Alaska’s native villages29 there will be store-bought turkey along with native delicacies such as reindeer stew30, stuffed moose heart31, and whale-blubber salad32.  For dessert there might be akutaq, which is whipped animal or vegetable fat that is mixed with sugar, berries and sometimes fish.  I wish all of the Eskimos and Indians joy as they eat their comfort food, but must admit that theirs is very different from mine.  



1. Illinois (伊利诺州): a midwestern state in the U.S. bounded on the west by the Mississippi River.

2. wedding anniversary celebration:结婚周年庆典

3. Interstate 80 (80号州际公路): the major highway extending from east to west across the U.S. It has been called the Mainstreet of the U.S.

4. a well-known restaurant chain: 一家著名餐馆的连锁店

5. fast food: 快餐

6. standard favorite types of food: common or usual favorite items of food in a restaurant.

7. comfort food: 安抚食品

8. baked potatoes:烤土豆

9. tuna fish and noodle casserole (金枪鱼面条砂锅): a mixture of ingredients with meat, vegetables and pasta, placed in a baking dish and baked until ready for serving. A favorite type of family meal.

10. egg sandwich:(煎)鸡蛋三明治

11. cheddar cheese: 切达奶酪,一种黄色硬奶酪。

12. regionalism: 地方色彩,乡土风味

13. the Mississippi River (密西西比河): the largest U.S. river, extending from Minnesota in the north to the Gulf of Mexico on the south.

14. Springfield: the capital city of the state of Illinois.

15. “sure enough” coll. something is true, or appears to be so; mostly heard in the Midwest.

16. nostalgic or sentimental appeal: 能吸引你回想过去或触发情感

17. memories: events which one brings to mind from the past (记忆).

18. sniff: inhale aromas; as of food, land, etc. (嗅,闻).

19. anticipate: look forward to(期盼).

20. Thanksgiving week: the week in November when Thanksgiving occurs (感恩节那周).

21. menu: a list of food that will be served in a restaurant or home (菜单).

22. escalloped potatoes: 焗马铃薯片

23. pumpkin pie: 南瓜馅饼

24. turkey:火鸡(肉)

25. cranberry salad (越橘色拉)a mixture of the fruits of cranberry combined usually with pineapple and served in various ways.

26. pecan piea dessert made with a pastry crust in a pie pan, filled with a mixture of pecan nuts, spices, and sugar and baked in the oven (山核桃馅饼).

27. green bean casserole: a baked mixture of green beans, mushroom soup and onions [绿豆(蘑菇洋葱)砂锅].

28. Alaska: the northernmost state of the U.S., just northwest of Canada (阿拉斯加,美国最北部的一个州,在加拿大的西北面).

29. Alaskas native villages: small towns in Alaska where people native to the area, such as Indians and Eskimos live (阿拉斯加的土著村落,如印第安人和爱斯基摩人住的村庄).

30. reindeer stew: 炖鹿肉汤,a mixture soup made with the flesh of the reindeer, a large deer native to Alaska and Northern Canada as well as N. Europe.  It is associated with Christmas and Santa Claus mythology where reindeer pull the sled in which Santa brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

31. stuffed moose heart: 麋鹿心煲,a dish prepared with the heart of the largest animal of the deer family, and which lives in North America from northern U.S. to Alaska and Canada.

32. whale blubber salad: 鲸鱼油色拉

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