Curious Comfort

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Sarah, the web editor for Capper’s Farmer, sent me an email about submissions for a cookbook they were needing to send off to the publisher and mentioned I had said I had my mother-in-law’s box of old recipes. I do not remember saying that, but there are a lot of things I don’t remember – especially when I am very busy. I am almost afraid to think about what that may include some days.

So I started going through those old recipes to see if they would be what ‘most’ people would consider ‘comfort food’ and realized some of them weren’t even what I would have called ‘comfort food.’ We were raised in different eras and areas of the country so, who is to say what the term ‘comfort food’ entails?

To me comfort food brings back my mama’s beans and dumplings, or homemade pies. She made the best pumpkin pie! I know I am slightly biased; she was my mother. You know, years later she owned up to lying to me. She hadn’t been baking pumpkin pies for me when I was a kid. She had been disguising squash as pumpkin. And I couldn’t even tell the difference! Now I know everybody has their story about what mama made them eat without them knowing it, and that is where my mind derailed for a little bit.

If we can be so easily tricked by our mothers into eating something that we are adamant about hating, what more can we be confused about. (Now we all know where those seeds of distrust started, huh?) You know I actually just found out last year that my mother never really made ‘dumplings’ either! She just whipped up a batch of baking powder biscuits and dropped them into her beans, or beef noodles, or whatever she was making. Cook 15 to 20 minutes and carefully roll each one over and cook another 15 to 20 minutes. It works every single time. Unless you are one of the people who likes their dumplings real heavy. These are light and fluffy!! Delicious! And this brings me back to the conundrum about comfort foods.

Comfort brings memories of ease and being stress free, soaking in warmth by a wood heating stove. Comfort to my husband is having central heat going in the winter and a small bowl of ice cream while he sits in front of the computer. My cousin thinks comfort is not worrying about anything and having everything you want. (I kind of like that one a little myself.) So I started really looking at the recipes, thinking about the area she was raised in and where she had raised her children. There is not much of a difference in some things – casseroles are always good. Hot, fresh from the oven pies and cakes by our mom and grandma are probably the best.

I was more than a little surprised when I ran upon the recipe below. Read it carefully. The Beverly Hillbillies had nothing on this old gal from Alabama. The recipe is for ‘coon’!? And if you continue reading just below that almost straight line it says ‘possum’! Neither my husband nor his younger sister recall her cooking them any of those delicacies, but wouldn’t that be a hoot if they get to heaven and ask her, and she answers ‘yes’? His sister did tell of a story his mother recounted about one of her younger brothers feeding her coon when she was a girl and not telling her until after she had eaten it.

I have come to the conclusion that, like everything else in life, comfort is different things to different people and ‘comfort food’ is just another memory like ‘the good old days’. I really do like those good old days and comfort foods, though.