We gather around the dining table for many different reasons, often out of pure necessity. In the same way that food can serve as an emblem of joy and celebration, it can also nourish us in times of grief and stress. It’s in those moments that we turn to comfort food.
That said, the idea of cooking for comfort may feel empty or selfish when there are so many problems in the world. It’s hard to feel comforted when disorder is seemingly omnipresent on our TV screens and Twitter feeds. Earlier this week, I was talking to my coworkers about these feelings of futility, when Salon senior writer Mary Elizabeth Williams gently interjected.
Related: Baking our way through survival
Cooking for others, she reminded me, is one of the simplest ways to gather with the people you love. Once you’re seated for a meal, the kitchen table serves as both a respite and a powerful place to strategize for meaningful change in the world outside of our kitchens.
Data shows that during the pandemic, more Americans began to cling to the ritual of sitting down for dinner as a household. In a recent survey conducted by the direct-to-consumer brand ButcherBox, 76% of responders wished they could do so more often. What, exactly, prevents them from doing so? Busy work schedules and extracurricular activities.
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I know that it’s easier said than done, but maybe there’s one meal over the next few days in which you can push those commitments to the backburner — even if only for an hour — to cook and to gather. Here are some dishes from the Salon Food archives to help you get there:
When I think of comfort food, I personally think of pasta. That could mean this springy play on pasta e ceci, which is packed with bright lemon and dill, or a simple pot of Maggie Hennessey’s summery tomato and buttery brie pasta. If you’re hungry for something more, whip up a sheet pan of Michael La Corte’s impossibly crispy chicken parmesan with a side of noodles.
Cooking for a crowd? Consider a gigantic sheet pan of Williams’ “stroganachos.”
Continue the comfort with dessert. Take advantage of seasonal produce with columnist Bibi Hutching’s riff on panna cotta or her mom’s strawberry delight squares. If it’s peach season in your part of the country, grill some up. Top them with a generous — very generous — spoonful of whipped cream and some fresh mint leaves.
Beat the heat with Mary Elizabeth William’s ingenious ice cream sandwiches, which are made from King’s Hawaiian sweet slider buns stuffed with Kona coffee ice cream. They’re easy and decadent, much like Valerie Bertinelli’s Sicilian Chocolate Love Cake.
More comfort food we love: