This week is Happiness Week here on BTR and so we’ve decided to share some of the foods that make us feel most comforted when we’re down and out. From cheese fries to grilled cheese to spaghetti, our favorites have one thing in common: carbohydrates.
Let’s be real–Nathan’s signature Bacon Cheese Fries elevate the comfort food game to a level quite literally untouchable by its fellow fast food chains. It’s within the wee hours of the night that I find myself darting to my local Kmart, which houses the nearest number one hot dog destination, for this soggy, but ever-tasty potato-based product and am rarely–if ever–disappointed with my order.
It’s the definitive pick-me-up snack. There’s something magical about the combination of cheese, bacon, and potato that triggers an involuntary, emotional reaction from within; this is what it feels like to be loved.
Although it’s not the cleanest looking of dishes, Nathan’s Bacon Cheese Fries take on savory and crumbly vibes while filling up its patron with a gooey, yet nuked texture. Each bite welcomes consumers into a blissful existence, one that can only truly be experienced when the crispiness of bacon is complimented by a melted, glossy cheddar.
And they say food can’t make you happy–yeah, right.
Photo courtesy of Personal Creations.
I love cheese. I really, really, really love cheese. I put more than enough cheese on pretty much everything that tastes good with it–a whole container of parmesan on a plate of spaghetti, a whole hunk of feta in my guacamole. You get the point.
So my comfort food is, naturally, grilled cheese. But, not any kind of specialty grilled cheese. Don’t you dare try to add ham, and don’t even think of serving it with tomato soup. No, my comfort food is grilled cheese in its purest form: yellow American cheese on white bread, always grilled with mayo and never butter (a trick passed down from my mother).
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years trying to alter this very simple recipe, like using low-fat mayo (big mistake, HUGE) or attempting to cook it in a toaster oven rather than in a skillet. While the bread–and even the cheese–can be interchanged with other varieties, nothing beats the original when I’m feeling particularly down or had a rough day.
When I think about comfort meals, I immediately think about Thanksgiving. After spending four years away at college, my first home-cooked meal after months of dining hall food came at these festive dinners. Although on this day, most of the preparations go into baking a flawless turkey, I tend to load my plate with generous portions of side dishes: green bean casserole, roasted carrots, and a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.
It’s something about the fluffiness of the blended potatoes paired with creamy milk and melted butter that make me go back for seconds and even thirds. I even offer to hand mix the potatoes in order to sneak a few added bites before anyone else has the opportunity.
More than anything, mashed potatoes remind me of nights spent with my family around the dinner table, of home. On days when I’m feeling particularly down, I look to my parents and siblings for a pick me up. And then I ask, “What’s for dinner?” and hope they say those two golden words.
In all honesty, no food is as comforting to me as a warm and gooey grilled cheese dipped in Ranch dressing (don’t judge). However, since Molly is already talking about this glorious sandwich, I’ll talk about my second favorite comfort food: pasta.
Pasta and I have always been great pals. My mom has told me stories from when I was a sick child and the only thing she could get me to eat was spaghetti and tomato sauce.
I love the stuff. I love that it comes in a hundred different shapes–noodles to twirl, shells to fill with sauce, bow ties to laugh at. If I’m ever having a particularly rough day, I turn to a warm and comforting bowl of pasta and rich sauce to lift my mood.
When it comes to comfort food, I own a running list of favorites. When I’m feeling under the weather, it’s homemade matzo ball soup. If I can’t find that, then honestly Panera’s chicken noodle will do. If you’ve known me long enough, you’ve likely heard me praise tater tots in many a rant, or soupy stovetop macaroni and cheese. Does sushi qualify as comfort food? In my house, the answer is yes.
But above all else, when I’m looking for comfort food, I look to fried chicken. It may not make sense. I grew up in a Jewish household in suburban New Jersey where gefilte fish and rye bread toast reign (I like those items, too), but for me, it’s fried chicken. Any fried chicken will do the trick—even McDonald’s or KFC if I have to settle.
Yet, to this day, the best fried chicken I’ve had hails from a roadside barbecue shack in South Carolina, but around here, I’ll stick with Birds & Bubbles in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.