I recently read a fascinating article on comfort food, and consequently during a lunch with well-read friends, over our Grilled Shrimp and Avocado, our conversation flowed to that very subject. A common thread throughout both discussions was that comfort food, a term first used in 1977, and defined as "food prepared in a traditional style, having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal"(www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/comfort%20food) is an individual preference, and predominantly determined by childhood experiences. The formative encounters, perhaps being the most powerful, and having a greater impact than experiences later in life. So if you grew up eating and enjoying meatloaf, pumpkin soup, pierogi or spotted dick, that is the food you will most likely turn to when you are seeking to soothe yourself through food. Which of course makes me worry what my children will desire, as I barely ever make the same thing twice.
Interestingly, studies of American preferences show males and females differed in reasons for choosing comfort food and the types they chose. Men preferred warm, hearty, meal-type fare, generally triggered by positive emotions, whereas women, choosing snack type foods such as chocolate and ice cream, tend to gravitate toward those foods when they are experiencing negative emotions.
Food consumed as a response to emotional stress or in order to increase positive feelings, may be a key contributor to the obesity epidemic, currently facing many parts of the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_food#Russia)
A hotel I stayed in recently, advertised a "Comfort Food Night", alongside their "Managers Toast Night" and "BBQ" night. Their comfort offerings were a baked potato, cheese burger and a salad.
Whatever your comfort food may be, please indulge responsibly.
GRILLED SHRIMP AVOCADO BOATS
Peel one pound of jumbo shrimp, leaving tails on.
Marinate in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of fresh dill, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon zest. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Cut 2 avocados in half and twist to separate. Remove pits. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, salt and lemon juice. Cover, set aside.
Drain shrimp. Swirl a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, cook shrimp for 2 minutes, turn over and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Arrange avocado halves on arugula. Fill avocados with shrimp.
Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 2005