What is comfort food, anyway? Researchers at SUNY University found  that it’s food that reminds us of a time when we felt taken care of. In an experiment with chicken soup, a comfort food staple in many countries, they found that subjects were more likely to feel comforted if they had eaten chicken soup as a child. So when they were offered it again in a lab setting, that familiarity played a role in evoking a sense of comfort and safety, while keeping loneliness at bay. 

A lot of people also find enjoyment in the meditative aspects of cooking because it makes them focus on the task at hand and also connects them to their family or community when they make dishes they’ve loved their entire lives. 

You’re probably making your own special comfort food in your kitchen these days. I’ve made plenty of instant noodle soup with an egg, which just happens to be my personal guilty pleasure. But for a serious dose of comfort I turn to: 

Loaded Baked Potato

There’re versions of these in every nation that grow potatoes. Stick a potato in a hot oven for about an hour or until it can be easily pierced with a fork.  Carefully cut it in the middle, letting the steam out, and stuff it with anything that can be mixed into its creamy goodness: diced ham, pickled mushrooms, smoked salmon, roasted veggies. Top it off with shredded cheese for extra gooeyness and sprinkle with dill. None of that around? A baked spud with salt and butter does the trick every time. 

Photo by Kroshka Kartoshka
Photo by Kroshka Kartoshka

Golubtsi

This dish is perfect for when you still have two episodes on Netflix before you get hungry. Stemming from the Middle East, it’s essentially ground meat and rice rolled into cabbage leaves and stewed in tomato sauce until fork-tender. The trick is to let golubtsi mellow on low fire in a large, heavy pot until the show you’re watching is over. 

Photo by russianfoods.com
Photo by russianfoods.com

Syrniki

This is true comfort food for me because mom made them for breakfast when we were kids, and if she could pull it off in the mid 90’s with exactly three ingredients in the kitchen, you can too. Mix a package of tvorog (a Russian version of cottage cheese or a package of ricotta cheese), add an egg and about a cup of flour, and turn the dough into a roll. Slice it up and fry it. The whole thing takes 15 minutes. Top syrniki with sour cream and jam or sweetened condensed milk and escape into personal culinary heaven.

Photo by chipotlepotatoes.com
Photo by chipotlepotatoes.com

Still hungry? Check out our favorite soups and of course, pelmeni!

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