Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Joys of Childhood Comfort Food

 Favorite Childhood Comfort Food 
and Today's Popular Culture Replacements

Ten more days until our Springtime awakening, but who's counting?  Who am I kidding, I'm counting down to the last chilly nano-second.  At least the east coast region hit a warm spell at last, but I'm sure Winter hasn't finished with us yet.  

Kiki, here ... the Lenten season is my favorite time of year.  It's a time of rebirth, a renewal where we start anew and examine our lives.  During the Lenten Spring, my spirit is so refreshed.  I always make a new personal discovery.

I was blessed with a wonderful childhood.  I grew up in an inner-city, working class neighborhood but raised in the middle class tradition.  

We had a dog, fish, parakeet, ant farm, rabbit and cat. (the latter two for a short period) We owned a Chevvy station wagon; spent Sunday afternoons (after church), in the summertime, playing soft ball and riding our bikes; then we'd drive to the country and go to an actual Dairy for ice cream.  If we didn't go to the Dairy, Sunday nights  were "Ice Cream Night."  We'd have our bowls right before the Sunday Night Movie. 

Easter Sunday celebration had it's own set of traditions.  Saturday was spent on the Avenue picking up my Easter fashion accessories:   hat, gloves, shoes and fulfilling any last minute shopping need in preparation for Easter Sunday.  

 (Woman in Pink Dress Hat)

Our Easter Sunday celebration began with our church service.  We'd get there early in anticipation of the huge crowds, then rush home with our Easter plants in hand excited to see the surprises our parents hid in the basement the Saturday before.  

Mom always added more candy and surprises after we went to bed.  She could have easily started a business making personalized Easter baskets for kids.  She made our wicker Easter baskets custom to each of her five kids' preferences and interests. 

My brothers, sister and I would return from church to a dining room filled with Easter baskets and a box of real baby chicks in the living room, joining our new Parakeet.  Yes, I did say I grew up in the inner-city, not a farm. 

Our long row house was filled with activity and delicious aromas of ham, fried chicken, collard greens and bread pudding.  My mother made fried chicken every Sunday, until a year before her passing.

Lenten season is when I'm reflective about the many features of my life.  I thank God for all of my blessings.  So, it's hard not to remember the comforts, specifically the food eaten that defined my childhood.

 iCafe Woman Moderne is the epitome of a comfort food cafe.  Our divas are inside making or just taking out the bag -- their favorite childhood comfort food.  They'll present them with today's popular culture replacements. 

(Granville Millinery Company)

Let's join Seraphina (43 - architect), Jocelyn (51 - consultant), Brielle (20 - web designer and student), Vanessa (37 - concert pianist) and Maya (24 - kindergarten teacher) inside iCafe Woman Moderne for their simple comfort food.

Simple Comfort Food

1.  Kiki's Lorna Doones and Sweet Tea with Condensed Milk   (Lorna Doone Cookies)

I loved curling up in bed with a plate of Lorna Doones and a mug of sweet tea with canned condensed milk watching an old movie:  "Georgie Girl," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or "Bye Bye Birdie," surrounded by my Jackson Five posters and Seventeen covers taped to every inch of my wall, with my well-used stereo playing low in the background.

Fast Forward to Now ...
Today's Popular Culture Replacement:

(White Chocolate Latte)

A Starbucks White Chocolate Latte and a chocolate chip scone or muffin while chatting on My Space or watching "Gossip Girls."

Jocelyn pulls out chocolate chip scones from the oven in the open concept kitchen that also serves as iCafe Woman Moderne's coffee bar.  For all of you new visitors to the cafe, we're a retro style virtual cafe inside an Art Moderne home where women of all ages can just be.

Jocelyn sets a White Chocolate Latte on the the long island.

Quick Comfort Food and Seventies Television

2.  Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Fish Sticks

Friday nights in the Webster household was Fish Sticks, French Fries and Peas Night.  Grilled cheese sandwiches were our Saturday night fallback when we weren't out eating restaurant food.

"I'd watch the Brady Bunch munching on crunchy fish sticks, cottage fries and baby peas with onions.  Delicious!  We didn't use Mrs. Paul's or frozen fries, Mom made her own fish sticks from Cod or Whiting and her own cottage fries.  They were simple comfort food ... correction, cheap comfort food."

Grilled Cheese and Seventies Television 

"And we'd wash it all down with Dad's homemade root beer.  On grilled cheese night, Mom would make a sandwich assembly line with our choice of toppings (tomato, bacon and tuna) for us kids to make our own grilled cheese sandwiches."

"There's nothing better than eating comfort food while watching seventies television shows."

Today's Popular Culture Replacement:
 California Rolls (Sushi) and a Monte Cristo sandwich.   but the grilled cheese is still up there on the popularity scale.  What's a Monte Cristo Sandwich? (See recipe at the end of this post.)

 (California Rolls)

"Would you believe it, sushi?  I kid you not.  I took my tween daughter and her friends to the movies last Friday, afterwards I asked them what they wanted to eat.  They said sushi.  They wanted Sushi.  

I should have took those spoiled things home and made them eat a box of Gorton fish sticks I had in the freezer.  When I suggested it, to relive my Fish Stick, French Fry and Peas Night.  They looked at me as if I said run into traffic with your eyes closed.

How was the Sushi? 

Of course, we went for Sushi.  And the whole time they were playing games on their cell phones or texting, so there were little conversation with me, which was probably a blessing."

"Okay, it's my turn.  You may be a little surprised what I'm bringing to the table since my childhood was only a few years ago."  (giggling)

She  pulls out a Shepherd's Pie from the bottom oven.

"That's yours?  I thought it was Seraphina's or Vanessa's."
It's my Gammy's recipe.  I used to spend the weekends and some nights at her house, when my mom, a doctor, had to work.  She started her residency when I entered kindergarten.  

Gammy taught me all the things my mom didn't have the time to each me like cooking, sewing, knitting.  We used to knit over a plate of Shepherd's pie and Lemonade.  Gammy was so cool."

Today's Popular Culture Replacement:
 Steak Fajitas, Nachos, Salsa and Guacamole

When I'm hanging out with my girls, we always end up at a Tex Mex restaurant and order a round of Steak Fajitas, Nachos, Salsa with extra Guacamole with Margaritas.  Usually before we go out clubbing.

In the Summertime, I stayed in our swimming pool hanging out with my friends.  Dad would fire up the grill to get us out of the pool. Afterwards we'd catch fireflies and have our Jack and Jill ice cream sandwiches."

Today's Popular Culture Replacement:
Coldstone's Wafffle Cone after jumping on a backyard trampoline and swimming.  Today, watching a DVD or playing a video game would take the place of catching fireflies.

5.  Milkshake (still popular today)

"When my aunt Tess and Uncle Joey visited us from New York, they always arrived late Friday night.  They'd wake us up and make vanilla milkshakes for us, ignoring our parents' protests.  They were so good."

Today's  Popular Culture Replacement:
Jamba Juice Smoothies

Vanessa blends a Mango Banana Smoothie 

I've got one that was popular yesterday and is still the number one childhood comfort food.  She drains the spaghetti.

All (unison)

"Spaghetti is what everyone grew up on, but now you'll also find angel hair pasta with garlic sauce, shrimp and vegetables, along with spinach, tomato basil and organic pasta at the dinner table.  And don't forget Udon noodles, they're popular too.   Healthy pasta is the name of the game today.  And, there's nothing better than Italian comfort food.

Today's Popular Culture Replacement:
Angel hair pasta with shrimp, spinach, tomato basil and organic pasta and Udon noodles.

One thing our parents and grandparents all had in common, they wanted to provide us with simple healthy recipes that happen to give us a lot of comfort.  They were cheap recipes too.

Comfort Food Ideas

Monte Cristo Sandwich (Recipe from:  The World According to Sylvia Garza)

2 slices bread
mustard to taste
3 slices deli ham (or turkey)
1 slice gruyere cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
a touch cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon icing sugar
1 tablespoon strawberry jam


1. Spread mustard on a slice of bread and construct the sandwich with the ham and cheese.
2. Mix the egg, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a shallow pan.
3. Dip the sandwich into the egg mixture and cover both sides with it.
4. Melt the butter in a pan.
5. Fry both sides of the sandwich in the pan until golden brown and the cheese has melted.
6. Sprinkle the icing sugar onto the sandwich by placing it in a fine sieve and banging it over the sandwich.

From - Shepherds Pie

1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. lamb, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, diced
1 beef stock cube
1 lb. chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon corn flour
3 tablespoons tomato puree
pinch of salt and pepper
2 lb. potatoes
1 stick butter
This is how to make a real English shepherds pie, made with lamb. If made with beef, it would be known as cottage pie.Firstly, heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook until soft. Add minced lamb and stock cube, then cook until the mince is brown and shows a crumbly texture. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato puree, and add the corn flour. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about fifteen minutes, or until thickened.
Meanwhile, peel and chop potatoes and boil until soft, then mash them with the butter and salt and pepper to taste.
Put the filling into a deep dish, then top with the mashed potatoes and put under a warm grill (broiler) until the top is brown and crisp.
Delicious topped with melted cheese. Enjoy!
Submitted by: cass
Today's Popular Culture Replacement

White Chocolate Latte


  • 2  cups  milk
  • 1  cup  half-and-half
  • 2/3  cup  white chocolate morsels
  • 2  tablespoons  instant coffee granules
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  almond extract
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Garnish: cinnamon sticks


Stir first 4 ingredients together in a small saucepan over low heat until white chocolate morsels are melted. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts; pour evenly into 4 mugs. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Garnish, if desired, and serve immediately.
Karyn Dardar, Montegut, Louisiana, Southern Living, OCTOBER 2004



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