Too much comfort?

EssencePotPieEnough with the comfort food, already, don’t you think? Have you noticed that every single magazine related to food or lifestyle is peppering us with comfort food?

“You need comfort food in this economy” they say. Yet, if you keep your old magazines from years past, you’ll see that January through March, comfort food dishes dominate.

Why? Because it’s winter in most parts, and winter calls for pots of chili, thick stews and hearty casseroles. This year, it’s easy to add the economy as the reason we need comfort foods. It’s not enough that it’s chilly outside and we typically make these kinds of dishes in the winter anyway.

Don’t get me wrong… I love comfort food. Adore it, actually. But tying it to the tanking economy is going to ruin it for me. When we pull out of this (and we will) I don’t want to have a bad taste in my mouth about some outrageously delicious comfort food that reminds me of when the stock market was in a flat line, one gasp away from death.

I want to give specific kudos to Food & Wine Magazine, though. At least their covers (February and March 2009) seemed to be focused on healthy (and our nation is healthy, if a bit under the weather) comfort food.

The root vegetable gratin gracing their March cover adds an interesting, albeit sneaky, twist. Layers of sweet potato and butternut squash hide another layer of rutabaga (a step-child vegetable that’s good for you but never gets star treatment), all topped with a crunchy, olive oil-kissed bread crumb topping.

It looks worth the 30 minutes of prep time and 90 minutes of bake time. And I bet you could use leftovers, mashed, as you would pumpkin puree: in quick breads, pancakes, etc. Just guessing. That’s not to say that the homemade rolls on the Gourmet cover aren’t enticing (yes, Gourmet wants you to work for your comfort — no easy outs for Gourmet cooks). And the lamb and eggplant shepherd’s pie on Bon Appetit’s cover looks so scrumptious I can feel my hips widening just looking at the picture.

I guess a tanking economy is reason enough to hunker down at home and since it is chilly outside, a warm bowl of soup or a homey casserole seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Feed the soul at the same time as the tummy. But let’s do it for the reasons we’ve always done it… baby, it’s cold outside.

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