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Fine Cuisine with Art Infusion

"To cook is to create. And to create well...
is an act of integrity, and faith."


Comfort Food Revisited



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"Cooking is almost always a mood-altering experience, for good
or for bad, and at its best it is do-it-yourself therapy: more calming
than yoga, less risky than drugs."
~ Regina Schrambling, The New York Times, 9/19/01

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La Belle Cuisine


"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power,
has that ability to comfort."
Norman Kolpas


Comfort Food Revisited
September 2002

 “For it's a long, long time
from May to December
And the days grow short
when you reach September
And the Autumn weather
Turns the leaves to flame
And I haven't got time
For the waiting game
And the days dwindle down
to a precious few
September November…”

 ~ September Song, Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson

September. No longer do we have the carefree days of summer to put
a bounce in our steps. Nor can we rely on the hope and bright new
promise of spring to uplift our spirits. September sings a much deeper
tune. Melancholy. In a minor key. The approaching autumnal equinox.
Fall. A difficult time.

It was difficult for me long before the events of 11 September 2001, so it
is no small wonder that I find it particularly painful this year. Like many of you, perhaps, I really do not want to think about it. The haunting memories, the horrendous images engraved so indelibly just beyond our consciousness are stored in cache, easily retrieved. Sometimes they appear without our permission. Agonizingly painful. But I refuse to bury my head in the sand.

We dare not seek to eradicate these ghosts, however tempting that may
be. We dare not forget the fact that there are those fanatics still active in
the world whose hatred of all things American is so strong that they find
the very fact of our existence heinous. So heinous that they will go to any length to destroy us. If these United States of America are to survive, we
dare not forget the events of 11 September 2001 at the World Trade
Center, at the Pentagon, and in a once wreckage-filled crater in a rural Pennsylvania field. Those who died so horrifically that day deserve to be remembered. They deserve to be honored. They deserve our tribute.
Our tears will dry.

This is not intended to be a political statement. Nor is it my intent to propagandize in any way. United we stand. I only regret that I have no solutions to offer you. This is nothing more than a statement of where I
find myself today. “Your Webmistress, Up Close and Personal.” Perhaps
it will help. Perhaps not. Be that as it may, all I have to offer you is what
I know based upon my own personal experience. I can tell you unequi-
vocally that I do not welcome the prospect of an all-out, full-fledged war
(we are already at war, of course). Just happened to hear "Ain't Gonna
Study War No More" on WWOZ (the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station, 90.7 on your FM dial) this morning as MissSophieDog and I
were making our rounds. I thought to myself almost immediately, "But I
ain't studying war!" I seriously doubt that the occupants of the World
Trade Center were studying war a year ago either. We dare not forget. "United We Stand". The sign is still planted on our front lawn, and our
flag is still flying. We see that display as a privilege, an honor, and a sign
of respect. A salute, if you will.

So. Where am I? Considering the haunting nature of the year just past
and the daunting prospect of the near future, I must tell you that I am experiencing a tremendous degree of pain today. My precious Miss
SophieDogAngel is curled up at my feet as I write (as is her wont).
I must tell you that I need her here beside me. Her beauty and her
loving presence are curiously reassuring. Comforting. These words
do not come easily.

It has always been difficult for me to distinguish between emotional
and physical pain. Sometimes they are both present, feeding off of
one another like so many leeches. Sometimes not. Today I know that
my pain is primarily emotional, psychological. I am also well aware of
its physical ramifications. Headache from hell, for starters. The aching
chest that comes from trying to choke back tears, stiff neck, tight
shoulders, lower back pain. Smacks of tension, does it not? And then
there is the hunger. Ravenous. Which brings us, of course, to food.
Comfort food.

What? You find this frivolous? Please do not think for one instant
 I am so daft as to propose mashed potatoes and gravy as the Utopian
solution to the world’s gargantuan problems. But this is, after all, a
culinary site, remember? La Belle Cuisine.
“Our goal is to provide a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere,
designed to inspire, entertain and inform you.”
It is a well-documented fact that comfort food is right up there
with music and hot tubs when it comes to diminishing pain and
soothing frazzled nerves.

“When life is hard and the day has been long, the ideal dinner is not four
perfect courses, each in a lovely pool of sauce whose ambrosial flavors are
like nothing ever before tasted, but rather something comforting and savory,
easy on the digestion - something that makes one feel, if even for only a
minute, that one is safe.”
~ Laurie Colwin, "Nursery Food", in

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

Yes, indeed! “…something comforting and savory, easy on the digestion - something that makes one feel, if even for only a minute, that one is safe.”

So. Is it any wonder, then, that I found myself concocting a huge pot of
corn chowder yesterday? Not at all. And stewed tomatoes today. Yum,
yum, yum. Nothing fancy, just canned stewed tomatoes (Del Monte is my preference), butter (more than usual today) and a couple of pieces of white bread or rolls, torn into bite-size pieces. A few grindings of black pepper. Heat through until you have a nice, gloppy, gushy, comforting mish-mash. Calms the nerves.

“Chowder breathes reassurance. It steams consolation.”
~ Clementine Paddleford

And tomorrow? Pot roast. The Major's. (You do remember The Major, right?) And we ain't talking fancy here, folks. Can't you just hear him?
One of those solid meals. “Square meals,” as Jane and Michael Stern
like to say, in their gem

Square Meals: America's Favorite Comfort Cookbook


Why soup, chowder, pot roast for comfort? Well, because:

“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large
kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom.”

~ Barbara Costikyan

And I would add that if the heart-warming, soul-soothing kitchen
memory is not present, we bring it to life through fantasy. And then
turn that fantasy into  reality. Even if Mom is no longer around.

 So. Here it is:

The Major's Pot Roast

4 pounds beef roast (chuck roast or similar cut)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons salt [or to taste]
1 tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper [or to taste]
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
3 pounds potatoes
1 pound carrots
1 large onion
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons flour
Dash Kitchen Bouquet
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim any really huge chunks of fat or gristle from roast. Mix flour, salt
and pepper. Sprinkle over both sides of roast, patting into the meat. Heat
a large, heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast iron) over medium-
high heat, add bacon drippings. [Said skillet would have to be really large
to accommodate roast and vegetables, no? A heavy Dutch oven works
well also. I use my treasured 4-quart All Clad Braiser.] Brown roast well
on all sides. Peel and quarter potatoes and carrots. Peel and slice onion.
Add potatoes, carrots and onion to pan. Top with bay leaves, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup red wine, cover, heat until the liquid begins to simmer,
and transfer to oven [which you have preheated to 325 degrees F]. Roast
at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and separated from
any bones. What you choose to do during this time is your business. Or
hers. [How about a hot bath and a quick nap? Lull yourself to sleep with
a little Mozart or Brahms. But do not forget to set the timer...]
Transfer meat and vegetables to serving platter. Keep warm.
Make gravy. Place skillet over medium high heat on stovetop. Add flour,
stir and let brown. Add two cups water, beef broth or beef stock (you do have some in your freezer, right?) and bring to simmer, stirring thoroughly with whisk or gravy whip. Salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for 5 to
7 minutes. Stir in a bit of Kitchen Bouquet for color. Just in case your
roux was not brown enough to do the trick.
Open another bottle of red wine. Light some candles. Crank up the
stereo. Serve. Enjoy. And be grateful. Anyway.


 Dessert, you say? But of course! It would be really difficult to top

Chocolate Pudding from New York City’s “Home”

Howsomever. In consulting The Major, I find that his choice for the
ultimate homey comfort dessert is Strawberry Shortcake. (Hmm. Our Scrumptious Strawberry feature starts out with an excellent Strawberry-Glazed Cream Cheese Cake. Not a bad idea either! But make it a day in advance.) If it happens that you cannot find suitable fresh strawberries
during this season, no problem. Use whatever fresh fruit jumps out at
you. We still have beautiful peaches and nectarines. Just remember:
KISS! Keep it simple, silly. Or something like that. Okay?

Speaking of which, I cannot believe The Major did not suggest his
infamous Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce. An excellent dessert.
Trust me. And there are some beautiful pears out there right now...

I simply cannot resist repeating one of my favorite comfort food
quotes from Sarah Ban Breathnach, who just happens to be one
of my all-time favorite authors:

"Comfort food: quirky, quaint, quixotic. Personal patterns of consolation,
encoded on our taste buds past all forgetting, as unmistakable as greasy
fingerprints. When the miseries strike, and you’re down in the dumps,
food transformed by love and memory becomes therapy... When hearts
are heavy, they need gravitational and emotional equilibrium."

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
(from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy )

Amen, Sister Sarah! What I said yesterday and the day before still goes.
Until next time, remember... Be well, stay safe, enjoy your freedom.
And please. NEVER take it for granted! Count your blessings. Express
your gratitude. Some of the sentiments I shared with you around this
time last year bear repeating, as I mean them more than ever:
If you love someone (and surely you do!), tell them so. Today. Now.
They should not have to figure it out for themselves. Hug your spouse,
your children, your parents, your siblings, your pets, and tell them how
much they mean to you... Eat something delicious, nutritious, and com- forting. Make sure that you include some beauty in your life today, be it
in the form of flowers, music, art or your favorite hobby. Call a friend.
Write a note. Live love. Be passionate about something. Give a hoot!

God bless America.


Comfort Food
More on Comfort Food
Nursery Food
Nursery Food, Take Two
So... what about your wake?

“We always thought we were secure inside our borders in this country.
And the one day where we realized we weren’t, we lost control for a few
hours. And these people, literally and figuratively, tried to take control
back for us. And I think that will resonate for many, many years, and
will be remembered as a defining American moment.”

~ New York Times reporter Jere Longman, in
Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and
the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back



"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating


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