The idea of food as comfort is befitting. The foods of childhood do bring warm memories, and although tastes change over the lifespan, there are those foods that we still love into adulthood. Whenever we eat those foods, they bring a sort of happiness and nostalgia to mind that makes the meal, however meager, even more enjoyable. Food critic Tom Doorley’s memories are eerily similar to some of my own childhood culinary adventures. The first thing Doorley does is speak of the virtues of Heinz ketchup. My parents were notoriously brand loyal and there was no other kind of ketchup allowed into our home besides Heinz. I was a grown-up by the time I even tasted another kind of ketchup and I have to say, Heinz is still the best. In the interest of cost-effectiveness, I have purchased another type of ketchup only to be sorely disappointed.
Doorley also mentions egg sandwiches with ketchup on them. As a child, eggs were not my favorite food, but throw a splash of ketchup on top of those eggs, and suddenly they tasted like meat to me, and so delicious. These days that dish has turned into French fries with ketchup, and the eggs on the side. This is still one of my go-to dishes that is not only delicious ad nutritious, but will also deliver a pleasant mood boost. Another brand loyalty we had was Hellman’s mayonnaise, I still adhere to this one today as well. No sandwich was good without Hellman’s, except fried bologna which had to have mustard on it. Not only the food itself, but the brands can bring comfort by just seeing them in my kitchen.
Fisher writes of the connection between food, love and security, and the association is real. The author writes of the days of the past when the woman of the household had “seasons” for doing certain things, and the kitchen work was divided up in this way also. There was a time for baking bread and making cakes, and a separate time for canning fruits and vegetables and making jellies and jams. In Fisher’s childhood, the canning season was very memorable; the sight and smell of the different fruits, and the taste of the newly made jam brought happiness, and a feeling of love. Along with that feeling came a solid security that all was right with the world. In my household it was Thanksgiving; it took my mother two days to complete preparations for the feast. The smell of cinnamon and sage in the air, and the huge turkey thawing out on the kitchen table with a pan of freshly made cornbread setting aside for the stuffing are visions that are dear to my heart. Of course, there were turkey sandwiches (with Hellman’s mayonnaise) for days and days afterwards.
Fisher’s upbringing was a throwback to another time. By the time Doorley (and I) grew up, fast food was king, and McDonald’s was the king of the fast foods. We knew we were getting a great treat whenever we would stop at the golden arches. Just the sight of those arches today stirs a fond excitement. I have to admit that as soon as I was responsible for my own meals, I ate McDonald’s excessively, and covered all the major food groups. McDonald’s is still a treat, although they no longer provide my entire sustenance.