Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture.
The term comfort food has been traced back at least to 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: "Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup." They are believed to be a great coping mechanism for rapidly soothing negative feelings.
One study divided college-students' comfort-food identifications into four categories (nostalgic foods, indulgence foods, convenience foods, and physical comfort foods) with a special emphasis on the deliberate selection of particular foods to modify mood or effect, and indications that the medical-therapeutic use of particular foods may ultimately be a matter of mood-alteration.
The identification of particular items as comfort food may be idiosyncratic, though patterns are detectable. In one study of American preferences, "males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup) while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age." The study also revealed strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt. An article, "The Myth of Comfort Food" asserted that men tend to choose these types of savory comfort foods because they remind them of being "pampered" or spoiled, while women choose snack-related foods because they are associated with low amounts of work and less "cleanup." It also suggested that women are more likely to reach for unhealthier foods in times of stress due to more weight-conscious mindsets.
Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress and, consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States. The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.
Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women. The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress. For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.
A therapeutic use of these findings includes offering comfort foods or "happy hour" beverages to anorectic geriatric patients whose health and quality of life otherwise decreases with reduced oral intake.
A partial list by country of comfort foods around the world.
Comfort foods in Afghanistan are:
- Aushak – stuffed dumplings and sauce
- Bolani – flatbread
- Borani Kadoo or Borani-e-Kado – sweet and savory braised pumpkin with yogurt sauce
- Borani Banjan or Borani-e-Banjan – baked eggplant with yogurt sauce
- Chainaki – lamb stew
- Chalaw or Challow – steamed rice with spices
- Kebab – grilled skewered meat
- Kabuli palaw or Qabuli Palu – steamed rice with raisins, carrots, and lamb
- Karahai – meat cooked in a traditional karahi pot
- Korma Gosht or Qorma-e-Gosht – braised meat
- Mantu – meat-stuffed dumpling
- Sabzi Palu – spinach (sabzi) with spices
Australia and New Zealand
Comfort foods in Australia and New Zealand may include:
- Bread and butter pudding
- Braised lamb shanks
- Butterscotch apple dumplings
- Casserole (beef or chicken)
- Chicken soup
- Chiko roll
- Fairy bread
- Golden syrup pikelets
- Honey and oat slices
- Hot chips
- Lamb and vegetable soup or Irish stew
- Lamb chops
- Mashed potatoes
- Meat pie
- Pea and ham soup
- Pie floater
- Porridge, topped with brown sugar or honey, yogurt, nuts, and fruit
- Potato wedges
- Pumpkin soup
- Rice custard
- Rhubarb and apple
- Roast meat (beef, chicken, or pork with crackling)
- Roast potatoes
- Sausage and mash
- Sausage roll
- Shepherd's pie
- Steak and kidney pie
- Sticky date pudding
- Vegemite or Marmite on toast
British comfort foods include the following foods:
- Bacon butty – bacon sandwich
- Bangers and mash – sausages and mashed potatoes
- Egg and soldiers – toast sliced into approximately six to eight pieces lengthwise, to dip into soft-boiled egg yolk
- Cauliflower cheese
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Cornish pasty
- Cottage or Shepherd's pie
- Curry – India-inspired stew over rice
- Egg and chips
- Fish and chips
- Full English breakfast
- Fruit Crumble – stewed fruit with crumbly topping
- Lancashire hotpot
- Roasted meat, such as roast beef or chicken
- Scotch egg – hard-boiled egg baked in sausage
- Soups and stews
- Stottie cake – heavy, round bread
- Toastie – grilled sandwich
- Toad in the hole – sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding
- Yorkshire pudding
- Butter tart / Tarte au sucre – small sweet tart-shaped pastries
- Cabbage rolls
- Chili and beans
- Chocolate bars
- Fish and chips
- French toast
- Fried chicken
- Fried rice
- Ginger beef
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Hot chocolate
- Ice cream
- Kippered herring
- Macaroni and cheese
- Nanaimo bar
- Pancakes with maple syrup
- Pea soup
- Potatoes such as French fries, Hash browns, Mashed potatoes, Potato chips, and Potato salad
- Rhubarb pie
- Tourtière – meat pie with pork and lard
- Roast turkey
- Scrambled eggs on toast
Some Czech comfort food include:
- Svíčková – beef sirloin in cream sauce served with dumplings, whipped cream, lemon and cranberries
- Vývar s nudlemi – clear broth with vegetables and noodles
- Bramboráky – potato pancake
- Chleba ve vajíčku – slices of leftover bread, coated in a blend of eggs, milk and salt, then fried
- Knedlíky s vejcem – leftover dumplings with eggs
- Krupicová kaše – grits boiled in milk. Topped with butter, cocoa powder (sweetened, typically brand Granko), nuts, fruits, honey or powdered sugar
- Smažený sýr – fried cheese, usually served with tartar sauce and fries
- Špagety se sýrem – spaghetti, usually with ketchup and topped with grated cheese (eidam)
- Žemlovka – a baked dish made with layers of sliced rolls or buns called žemle, sliced apples and milk or eggs. It is served with cinnamon and raisins.
- Štrúdl or závin (Strudel) – can be sweet (with apples, raisins, walnuts, grated coconut or cherry) or savoury (with cabbage, spinach, cheese or meat)
- Šišky s mákem – potato dumplings with melted butter and poppy seeds
- Topinky – fried slices of (leftover) bread, served with garlic and salt
- Crème caramel – custard dessert
- Croque-monsieur – grilled ham and cheese sandwich
- French onion soup – onion soup with cheese and bread
- Gratin dauphinois – potato slices baked with cream
- Hachis Parmentier – diced meat with potato
- Nutella – sweet spread of cocoa and hazelnuts
- Pâté – cold meat paste
- Pot-au-feu – beef stew
- Poule-au-pot – whole chicken cooked in a stock pot with vegetables
- Húsleves - clear broth, with noodles vegetables and meat (served separate)
- Töltött káposzta - stuffed cabbage
- Finomfőzelék - creamy vegetable "stew"
- Lekváros palacsinta - crêpes with jam
- Bécsi szelet - wiener schnitzel
- Paradicsomleves - tomato soup
- Paradicsomos húsgombóc - meatball with tomato sauce
Comfort food in India usually varies between states and cities. Typically it is freshly eaten and easily available at roadside eateries or shops. Homemade food, especially by mothers, has a high sentimental value. This includes a very common Indian comfort food known as khichdi, which is also used for babies and convalescents.
- Basundi – thickened sweetened milk dessert
- Bhel puri – puffed rice snack
- Biryani – spicy rice with meat
- Bread and omelette
- Chicken tikka masala – curry of roasted marinated chicken
- Dal – cooked lentils with spices, usually served with steamed rice
- Dhokla – steamed fermented bread-like snack
- Dosa – stuffed pancake
- Kachori – spicy stuffed dumpling
- Khichdi – lightly spiced rice and dal
- Kulcha – baked/fried flatbread with spices
- Litti-Chokha – roasted stuffed dumplings
- Masala dosa – pancake [dosa) stuffed with potato filling
- Mutton soup
- Pakoda – fried fritters
- Paneer butter masala – curry with cheese curd (paneer)
- Panipuri – crisp bread shell with filling
- Rajma Chawal – red beans and rice
- Rose milk – milk and rose syrup
- Samosa – triangular stuffed dumpling
- Shira or sheera – sweet semolina pudding
- Sweet almond milk – milk with spices (like cinnamon and saffron) and almond chunks
- Tandoori chicken – roasted red-marinated chicken
- Upma – thick porridge
- Vada pav – fried potato dumpling inside a bread bun
Some popular Indonesian foods are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, and soupy or with a soft texture. Comfort foods often are the kind of food that provides nostalgic sentiments, as they often called masakan rumahan (home cooking) or masakan ibu (mother's dishes). In Indonesia, the warm and soft texture of bubur ayam is believed to help people to recover during convalescence. Sayur sop or sup ayam is Indonesian chicken soup that often sought during flu. The warm soup contains chunk of chicken, bits of potato, carrot, and common green bean served in chicken stock.
Some Indonesian comfort foods are traditional Indonesian food and some are derived from Chinese influences. For some Indonesians, especially those who are abroad, comfort food might also be a certain brand or type of Indonesian instant noodle, such as Indomie Mi goreng. Indonesian comfort foods include:
- Bakmi or mie ayam – noodles (mi) with pork (bak) or chicken (ayam)
- Bakso – meatball soup
- Bubur ayam – chicken congee
- Gado-gado – salad containing vegetables, tempeh and egg in peanut sauce
- Indomie Mi goreng – fried noodle
- Nasi goreng – fried rice
- Nasi tim – steamed chicken rice
- Sayur sop or sup ayam – Indonesian chicken and vegetables soup
- Sate – skewered barbecue with peanut sauce
- Soto ayam – spicy chicken soup
- Bruschetta – grilled bread with toppings
- Cappuccino - brewed coffee with milk foam and cocoa powder
- Espresso - brewed coffee
- Gelato - Italian ice cream
- Gnocchi – small soft dough dumplings
- Lasagne – flat noodles (pasta) layered with meat, cheese and tomato sauce
- Pizza – baked flatbread with toppings
- Nutella – sweet spread of cocoa and hazelnuts
- Spaghetti – noodles with tomato sauce
- Tiramisu - dessert made with ladyfingers, coffee, mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder
- Chazuke/ochazuke – rice with green tea
- Miso soup – soybean-flavored clear soup
- Mochi – rice cake
- Onigiri – rice ball
- Ramen – soup with thin noodles
- Sake - a sweet alcoholic beverage made with fermented rice
- Takoyaki – octopus balls
- Tempura – battered, deep-fried pieces of meat or vegetables
- Udon – soup with thick noodles
- Okonomiyaki - cabbage pancake with mayonnaise and savory sauces
- Oden - a hotpot soup with boiled eggs, daikon, konjac and fishcakes
- Soba - soup with noodles thinner than ramen
- Yakisoba - stir-fried noodles
- Tonkatsu - deep fried breaded pork cutlet
- Yakitori - grilled skewered meat
- Ayam Goreng - Malay fried chicken
- Cekodok - fritter snack made with banana, anchovies, prawns, onion or corn
- Char Kway Teow - stir fried rice noodles with meat or seafood seasoned with dark soy sauce
- Nasi Campur - rice with various viands
- Nasi Kandar - rice with fried meat or Indian curry
- Nasi Lemak - fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf
- Atole, including chocolate version Champurrado – hot masa drink
- Barbacoa – slow-cooked meat
- Burrito – flatbread (wheat tortilla) wrapped around meat or bean filling
- Chile Relleno – stuffed chili pepper
- Enchilada – flatbread (corn tortilla) in a tube around filling
- Guacamole – avocado dip/spread
- Huevos Rancheros – fried eggs, corn tortilla, tomato sauce, beans, and rice
- Nachos – tortilla chips (or totopos) with cheese sauce
- Quesadilla – grilled tortilla with cheese
- Taco – tortilla folded in half around filling
- Tamale – filling, wrapped in cornmeal dough, and steamed in a maize husk or banana leaf
- Taquito – rolled tortilla with filling, then fried
- Tortilla – unleavened flatbread
- Aloo gosht – meat and potato soup
- Kulfi – frozen dairy dessert
- Laddu – sweet dumplings
- Chicken Korma – braised meat or vegetables
- Daal Chawal – cooked lentil soup (dal) with steamed rice (chawal)
- Shami Kabab – flat meatballs
- Karhai Chicken – chicken, green peppers, onions and tomatoes cooked in a thick wok style pot with natural spices.
- Doodh Patti – boiled milk tea
- Biryani – spicy rice with meat
- Chicken Pulao – mild chicken with rice
- Chicken Tikka – skewered marinated chicken
- Omelette Paratha – egg omelette in flatbread (paratha)
- Haleem / Khichra – thick meat stew
- Aloo Keema – curry of potato (aloo) and minced lamb (keema)
- Lahori Fish – spiced fried fish
- Adobo – marinated meat
- Arroz Caldo / Lugaw – savory rice porridge
- Batchoy – noodle soup
- Bicol Express – spicy meat and coconut stew
- Binignit – coconut dessert soup
- Bulalo – beef bone marrow soup
- Champorado – chocolate rice porridge, sometimes served savory (as with tuyô)
- Dinuguan - pork offal stew
- Chicken Sopas – chicken noodle soup
- Halo-halo – dessert of mixed sweets
- Kare-kare – peanut stew
- Lumpia – spring rolls
- Lomi – noodle soup
- Pancit – noodles
- Puto – steamed rice cake
- Sinigang – sour soup
- Suman – glutinous rice cake
- Sisig - sizzling spicy chopped pig's head
- Tsokolate – hot chocolate drink
Some Polish comfort food include:
- Barszcz z uszkami – clear beetroot soup with forest mushrooms tortellini
- Boczek – smoked pork belly
- Bigos – hunters stew
- Budyń waniliowy z malinami – vanilla pudding with raspberries
- Kotlet schabowy – pork schnitzel
- Flaki – tripe
- Golonka – pickled ham hock
- Gulasz – goulash / meat and vegetable stew
- Zupa grzybowa – wild mushroom soup
- Jagody ze śmietaną – blueberries with cream
- Kapuśniak – sauerkraut soup
- Kopytka – Polish gnocchi / potato dumpling
- Łazanki – large flat noodles with fried sauerkraut
- Makaron ze śmietaną i truskawkami – pasta with cream and strawberries
- Mielone z ziemniakami i mizerią – pork burgers with mashed potato and fresh cucumbers sour cream salad
- Naleśniki z twarogiem – pancakes with milk curd
- Zupa ogórkowa – sour cucumber soup
- Pierogi – filled dumplings
- Placki ziemniaczane – potato pancakes
- Rosół – chicken soup with fine noodles
- Sernik – baked cheesecake
- Śledź w oleju – pickled herring
- Zapiekanka – toasted open-face sandwich
- Zupa pomidorowa – clear tomato soup with rice or noodles
- Zupa szczawiowa – sorrel soup served with boiled egg
- Żurek – sour rye soup
- Wódka - vodka
Some Puerto Rican comfort foods include:
- Arroz con gandules – rice with pigeon peas
- Arroz con pollo – rice with chicken
- Bistec encebollado – steak and onions
- Carne frita con tostones – fried pork with fried plantains
- Carne Guisada – stewed beef
- Carne mechada – Puerto Rican style meatloaf
- Churrasco – grilled flank or skirt steak
- Cuchifritos and Fritanga – assortments of fried appetizers (alcapurrias, bacalaitos, pastelitos/pastelillos, piononos, sorrullos/sorullitos)
- Habichuelas guisadas con calabaza – beans stewed with pumpkin
- Lechón asado – roast pork
- Mixta – white rice, stewed beans with pumpkin and stewed meat with potatoes and carrots
- Mofongo and trifongo – fried mashed green plantains
- Mofongo relleno de mariscos, carne o pollo – Fried mashed green plantains stuffed with seafood, meat or chicken
- Pasteles – Puerto Rican tamales
- Pastelón de plátano maduro – ripe banana casserole with ground beef and cheddar cheese
- Pinchos – Puerto Rican skewers
- Sancocho – stew made with meat, tubers, vegetables and herbs.
- Sopón – rice soup with chicken or shrimp
- Tostones – fried plantain slices
- Tripleta – Criollo bread sandwich, ham, steak and chicken, mayonnaise, ketchup and tomato salad and cabbage
Ukrainian comfort foods includes, but aren't limitied to:
- Borscht — beetroots soup, also there are few variants:
- Green borscht
- White borscht
- Cabbage borscht
- Deruny — potato pancakes with sour cream
- Holubtsi — small, medium or large rolls with prepared rice
- Cabbage roll
- Grape leaves roll
- Kasha — kind of porridge
- Kholodets — kind of a jellied meat
- Kolach — sweet, round shaped pastry
- Mlynci — pancakes.
- Nalysnyky — pancakes with fillings
- Pampushky — small savory or sweet yeast-raised bun
- Pyrizhky — backed or fried small donuts with different (mostly fruits or meat) fillings.
- Syrnyky — fried quark pancakes, garnished with sour cream
- Varennia — jam
- Varenyky — Filled dumplings cooked at boiling water
- Vinehret — Beans and potato salad colored with beetroots
Russian comfort foods may include but are not limited to:
- Bliny – pancakes
- Dressed herring – layered herring salad
- Golubtsy – cabbage rolls
- Kotlety – meatballs
- Kasha – porridge
- Kholodets (dish) – savory gelatin
- Kvass – fermented drink made with bread
- Napoleon – layered pastry
- Okroshka – cold vegetable soup
- Olivier salad – vegetable salad
- Ponchiki – yeast-raised pastry bun
- Pelmeni – meat-filled dumpling
- Pirozhki – meat-filled bun
- Rassolnik – pickled soup
- Shashlik – skewered and grilled cubes of meat
- Shchi – cabbage soup
- Solyanka – spicy and sour soup
- Syrniki – fried cheese
- Ukha – clear, fish-based soup
- Vareniki – filled dumplings (pierogi)
- Khao Phat - Thai fried rice
- Khao Soi - curry noodle soup
- Kai Yang - grilled chicken marinated in fish sauce, coriander root and garlic
- Laap - minced meat seasoned with roasted ground rice, lime juice, fish sauce and fresh herbs
- Phat Thai - stir-fried thin rice noodles with egg, tofu and shrimp seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, vinegar and dried chilli
- Tom Yam - Sour and spicy shrimp soup
In Turkish, comfort food is closest in meaning to Turkish: Anne yemeği, "mother's dish", especially in terms of providing a nostalgic feeling, or Turkish: Ev yemeği, "home dish". Some Turkish comfort foods are:
- Bánh cuốn - steamed rice cake
- Bánh mì - baguette with various fillings
- Gỏi cuốn - spring roll with pork, prawn, vegetables, rice vermicelli and various ingredients wrapped in transparent rice wrapper
- Bánh xèo - sizzling pancake
- Cơm tấm - broken rice
- Bún bò Huế - beef vermicelli soup
- Bún riêu - crab and tomato noodles
- Canh chua - Sour Tamarind Soup
American comfort foods may include the following foods:
- Apple pie
- Baked beans
- Biscuits and gravy
- Cake and Cupcakes
- Chicken fried steak
- Chicken and dumplings
- Chicken soup
- Chili mac
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Chowders: Clam chowder, Shrimp chowder, Corn chowder, etc.
- Corned beef and cabbage
- Dinner rolls
- French fries
- Fried chicken
- Green bean casserole
- Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup
- Ice cream
- Macaroni and cheese
- Mashed potatoes
- Peanut butter
- Potato chips
- Pot roast
- Red beans and rice
- Tamale pie
- Sloppy joe
- Tuna casserole
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France's love affair with the Italian chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella is well-known.... In fact, according to some figures 26 percent of the world consumption of Nutella is done by the French even though the brand is Italian. This means that around a whopping 75,000 tonnes of Nutella are consumed every year in France. France's long love affair with the chocolate spread starts, for many, at childhood when it is the sweet and some say sickly breakfast of choice for many French school children. And according to Paris food writer and author of the blog Chocolate & Zucchini Clotilde Dusoulier it could be this childhood link which is partly behind the France's love for Nutella. "French people eat it by the spoonful. I had it on toast for breakfast as a child," Dusoulier told The Local. "And like with candy, grownups continue to eat it to connect with their inner child." The food writer also explained that the French have a tendency to turn to sweets in times of uncertainty.
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