Friday, November 5, 2021

Sometimes Comfort Sometimes Complicated

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 5 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

What is your go-to comfort food and why?

It was submitted by:


Having a chronic illness that comes with a lot of gastrointestinal issues really changes the concept of comfort food. I don't think it's wrong to ask this question by any means, but I do want to point out that food is such a big part of culture and society that we tend to take it for granted that everyone has access to their comfort food or could eat it. And I'm glad to have an opportunity to talk about how poverty and disability have impacted by my relationship to food in negative ways.

I've had different comfort foods in my life related to where I was and what I had access to, but they've always been shaped by how poor I was at the time. When I was a kid, it was boiled peanuts. My dad often had access to farms through his welding work and a perk of that was getting some food to help us make it through the year. Peanuts are a huge crop here, so my dad would bring home whole bushes, and we'd sit outside in plastic dollar store chairs pickinf off the peanuts and eating raw ones until we got sick. And then peanuts would be in the freezer all year long for any time I felt down and needed a little salty nugget of comfort.

In my early teens, it was chicken and dumplings. My grandma made it often when we were kids, and it was one of my favorite things back then, but after my parents divorced, she'd make them every year for my birthday, and it always gave me a warm, full belly and a reminder of better times. But hers were always made from biscuits in a can, and while she fancied hers up, learning to make them that way taught me how to make them cheaply. I can't tell you how many times I made a pot of them myself (when I could still eat them) for a few bucks. Chicken broth, a little butter, and can biscuits can make a good ass meal for several days for a person or few. Add chicken and eggs can add money but also make it more filling. The point being it maintained its ability to give me a full, warm belly and a bit of comfort.

After I moved out on my own, I was making just over $5 an hour and trying to make pay all my bills. It was rough, and most of the time I didn't know how I was going to eat and took napkins from the bathroom at work to use for toilet paper, but I would be damned if I was going back home. I couldn't. So I ate mostly groceries my grandma gave me when her cabinets got too full and ramen. If I wanted to splurge for a little comfort though it was chips and salsa con queso. If I couldn't afford the whole jars I could still get a pretty cheap nachos lunchable. The first time I saw High Fidelity, I was sitting in the middle of my little apartment's living room with a jar of each and some baked tostitos scoops. I was so entranced with the movie I forgot they were there after awhile. It was pure bliss. If I was lucky, I'd also grab a pack of twizzlers. When I had nothing, sometimes it was the junk food that brought me comfort. Things I took for granted when I still lived at home made me feel like things might be ok.

French toast was a thing I loved to make when I finally got a raise for training I did for the job I had at the time. Whenever I needed some company and comfort because life had been (and still is) very fucking hard, I'd invite all my friends over for a french toast night. The ingredients were cheap as hell and I could make some banging ass french toast. We'd sit around the table with a stack of it and a huge bowl of syrup in the middle to dip. Yeah yeah unsanitary. We didn't give a shit. Eggs, a couple of 75 cent loaves of bread, and a bottle of syrup plus the secret ingredients I kept on hand when I could, and we'd sit around the table laughing and with full bellies.

After I got married, I couldn't tell you... That part of my life just wasn't all that great, and I don't have memories with food because of it. We were always broke and eating ramen because he blew our money on unnecessary shit. We struggled to find time to cook. I was always dieting and quite honestly after working 14 days in a row sometimes all I wanted after work was a beer when I could afford comfort (or maybe some Chinese buffet). That's part of the reason I no longer drink. I stopped the moment I found out I was pregnant, but I never really drank often after that. I could have easily been my dad when things were rough. By that time, too, I'd had my gall bladder removed, so I couldn't have a lot of the things I previously loved without issues. They really don't spend enough time telling you how badly having your gall bladder out can change your response to food, and I wasn't in any way prepared. I really had no good relationship in those years with food between being sick for months when I was pregnant and the gall stones and problems after it was out. It hurt. My relationship with food was so damaged from years of being bullied by family and peers and then hating to eat when I was sick that I just lost all sense of comfort from it at all.

So it probably shouldn't be a surprise that being a single parent really didn't change that much. My kid ate well. I always made time to fix him something he wanted, but at most I maybe had a pouch of tuna or a couple of pop tarts. We didn't really have the money for fast food, and I was also doing school full time so I didn't have time to make anything fancy. I had trouble still eating the things I had always loved. It wasn't a great time. We made due. But every now and then I'd still take the kid to our favorite Chinese place. We'd get dressed up for no reason, and he'd talk to our waitress like they were old friends. He called chicken and broccoli "wet chicken" and that became our thing, a bright spot in a dull, stressful world.

And now? Oh lawd. Now my relationship with food is probably more complicated than it has ever been because I can't eat. I mean I have a few foods I can keep down but even those aren't consistent. One day I'm fine, the next it comes back up. And despite all that the side effects of being that sick all the time, I'm still fat. One of these days y'all might have to admit it's not as simple as calories in and calories burned. But at least for now, I do have one thing that brings a little smile to my face. Grits. I've embraced being from the South more and more over the years. We're more queer than any other region of this country. We have more marginalized populations. And we have a bunch of politicians who have worked really hard to make sure that we don't have a voice, but that never seems to stop us trying. Our culture is so intertwined with food--from making due with scraps the way I have all my life. It only took me over half of it to realize this. Every morning I get up and make breakfast. Usually we have grits as part of that breakfast. Maybe some of y'all don't know what grits are because for the most part they've always been a staple in the south and ignored until fancy restaurants realized how much markup they could get on a shrimp and grits dish. Grits are basically porridge made from cornmeal, but with the right cook and the right seasoning they become a divinely creamy, savory dish that sends your taste buds into a frenzy. They're good any time of day but getting your belly full on grits first thing in the morning just sets the day off right unless of course you're on the receiving end of grits used as a weapon. Just ask Al Green about that ;)

Food is complicated for most folks. Eating disorders are all too common. We're sold fad diets and cookbooks and new devices. Sometimes comfort just isn't possible and that's ok too. But also if you take anything from what I've said here, let it be that comfort food can look like anything. It can be a $1 pack of lunchables nachos or it can be the thing your grandma made you even if you were hurt by that same grandma. Comfort can be anything that nourishes your body to keep you going. Comfort doesn't have a look or a box it can easily fit in. Take it where you can get it.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer


What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom


  1. Without a doubt comfort food can be anything, and sometimes it's different things, but for me it's usually something my mom makes that reminds me that foods prepared with love taste like they are prepared with love.

  2. I understand those feelings as I'm in the same boat. I've had stomach issues for years (also had my gall bladder taken out) and I also have ulcers so food is complicated for me too. Right now, for the last 4 or 5 months I cannot eat anything hardly because it makes me sick. I cook a big meal and then as soon as I smell it I'm done. I've been living on Ramen because it's been the only thing I can keep down. I have tests coming up two days before Thanksgiving and I'm hoping to get some answers and some help. This time I've actually lost weight (which has never happened before but I'm down almost 50 pounds) but it's not a good look. Chicken dumplings has always been my favorite (I use can biscuits too!), but like you can't eat them often and it all depends on how much money is left over for food. Things have been so tight, I actually just had to put groceries on my credit card which I hate but you do what you have to do. I remember one point back in KY one week we'd buy a bag of potatoes and each (hubby and I as the kids were grown) at a baked potato. The next week we'd buy a box of cereal and milk and have a bowl a day. I've very food insecure. I know what it's like to be hungry and that's a feeling I can't deal with well.