Comfort food

The expression 'comfort food' means different things to different people. In communities where it is commonly heard, the emphasis is on the fact that it can be anything that lifts up the spirits, often because it has nostalgic or sentimental associations with other people or situations.

The phrase can be typified by dishes with high levels of carbohydrates and/or calories, variously described as addiction without the risks, to-hell-with-the-diet, and food as a harmless drug.

Lockdown has understandably increased our desire for comfort food, as what we eat and drink in the privacy of our own home can substantially influence our state of mind.

It is what makes us feel happier, more stress-free, and invariably satisfied at all levels, frequently a sensation produced by consciously doing something that we know we should not be doing. Examples are chocolate, bacon sandwiches, fish and chips, ice cream, a fry-up, a curry, or whatever we could eat more of even though we are not hungry.

Comfort food means nothing in Spain, and if you try to explain what it means, the reaction will be that all Spanish food is comfort food.

Arguably, in a gastronomically materialistic society, a plate of '5 bellotas' (five acorns - top category) cured ham or a matured manchego cheese may qualify. However, what are known as 'platos de cuchara' (spoon dishes - because that is how they are eaten) are probably the best examples.

These are what children are brought up on. They create blissful reminiscences of mother serving from a big dish for everyone to share. Happy memories of comfort food.