By Amy Trefry
Renowned chef Jamie Oliver recently released a new cookbook and TV series entitled “Comfort Food”. During an interview on CBC’s Q, Oliver expressed his thoughts on what makes comfort food, well, comforting.
“For me, when you respond to not just cook what you want from the book, but the other way around, you look at what’s in the super markets, what’s in season…and you look at the weather turning or getting more spring like, that is when you start creating dishes that are a natural antidote to the weather,” said Oliver.
The shift from languid summer days to the crisp mornings that call for scarves and sweaters that will be peeled off and stuffed into purses, draped over arms, or tied around waists as the midday sun gives its final bursts of summer heat, autumn brings the change from a painter’s pallet of greens, to a fiery horizon of foliage, and the enjoyment of steaming cups of tea, coffee and cider.
There is perhaps nothing more comforting than these fleeting weeks, maybe because they are so brief, the anticipation of winter without the reality of it, the memories of summer still fresh with the full measure of friendships, family and community holding strong before receding into warm houses with the first sign of snow.
Comfort food can bring you closer to home when you are away, or it can create a new sense of home when you are settling roots in an unfamiliar place.
It is the people surrounding the food that build a sense of acceptance, warmth, that feeling that ‘everything will be ok’. Comfort food is about Grandparents, adventures, new relationships, heartaches, campfires, sunsets, favorite spots, and laughter; it is different to every person but important to all of us.
Comfort food is perhaps only as good as the company in which it is harvested, preserved, prepared or consumed. ‘Pick Your Own’ or ‘U-Pick’ has been around as long as people have been growing food for consumption by others, but the resurgence of interest and awareness in ‘farm-to-table’ importance for our environment, communities, and economies has meant a growth in consumers committed to the practice of harvesting their own food directly from the farmer’s fields.
October in the Midwest means apple season, and nothing says comfort food in America like apple pie.
The ceaseless thrum of the interstate gives way to corn, soy and wheat fields, side roads snake through small country towns with unmanned wagons full of pumpkins for sale, buyers honor, and signs for the local church craft sale. It is an urbanites image of rural life at its most idyllic, and it is hard to suppress a sigh of wistful thinking, after all, nature does do a spectacularly convincing portrayal of rural life as seen on the cover of ‘Home and Garden’ or ‘Country Living’ in the fall and the lure of a slow pace and a community where everyone knows your name tugs at our very idea of comfort.
Arriving at an apple orchard U-pick, if you are like me, you can not help but start to envision crates of apples stacked in your kitchen, waiting to be turned into every combination of sweet, savory, and spicy, dried, canned, pickled, and preserved product that your creative hands can produce.
As you wander from tree to tree, row after row you can not ignore the tangible sense of community and happiness that flows around you, babies in red wagons being pulled along, piles of apples propping them up, a toddler biting an apple still bound to its branch both ends determined not to let go, children climbing in trees, and adults connecting over family recipes or simply the enjoyment of being in that moment in time.
This is not a glorified, glossed over or ‘instagramed’ image, this is just simplicity and authenticity of human nature when we seek out and give ourselves over to a place of comfort.
As Jamie Oliver says, “comfort food has the power to make you feel safe, secure, fulfilled, excited and a bit giddy.”
Words and photos by Amy Trefry.
Read other articles by Amy Trefry – Green Figs and Lamb in Cyprus