A big bite of 'slightly better'
On low days, do you eat a particular dish to feel better? Soup interviewed nine people about comfort food and what makes it so comforting.
Someone I know once told me, that when he moved to Mumbai, he took a taxi from Lower Parel every day, for three months, to a dingy, little-known Kerala cuisine restaurant in Mahim. And every day, for those three months, he would order a plate of their beef fry. According to him, that beef fry made him feel just a little more at home, in a city full of strangers.
While one man's beef fry might be another man's Maggi noodles, it's quite beautiful that comfort food is in that twilight zone which evades judgement from even the most exacting food critic. It is a hedonistic, self-involved ritual and its primary purpose is to provide you a sense of well-being, in dollops and globs and generous second helpings. Rich food to drown yourself in, simple food to prepare you for the worst.
Each person's choice of comfort food is also an interesting glimpse into themselves. Some find peace in nostalgia; mushy childhood food and the fragrance of flavours from a less complicated time. Others find pleasure in method, the immersive rituals of making food they love to eat.
In a country like ours, comfort food takes on a social context. As a South Indian, a hot plate of 'milagu rasam' and rice, fragrant with freshly chopped coriander and peppery enough to make my ears burn a little, is exactly what soothes me. But what does a chef from Kolkata like? Would his food be dictated by geography or economic background? For instance, what would someone who grew up rich seek in their food as opposed to someone else for whom food isn't a luxury?
To get a deeper perspective on the subject, Soup interviewed a few people to understand how we depend on food to dispel the blues.
Story: Meera Ganapathi, Photography: Jimmy Granger