Comfort food

Most of us take food so for granted in the U.S. I know I do, I'm ashamed to say. The plenty we enjoy has allowed food to take on a much different meaning than it has in many less wealthy places on earth. For most Americans, food is far more than sustenance and nutrition - it's entertainment, business, even passion.

Memory and comfort, too. I'd bet that everyone reading here has a favorite comfort food. Mine is a dish called sarma, Slovenia's version of cabbage rolls. If you're Slavic you may know it or something like it by a different name. It's homely peasant food, and I'd rather eat a dish of it than anything else on the planet.

What about you? What foods conjure up memories and comfort for you?

For those who think they might like it, here's Mom's recipe. The photo is actually of the Bosnian version, but it looked the most like Mom's of any I found.


1 large head of cabbage
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
2/3 cup rice, uncooked
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 beef bouillon cube (optional)
1 medium or small package sauerkraut
2 tbl flour (for roux)
2 tbl butter (for roux)

Core and parboil the cabbage. Separate the leaves to cool, trimming the tough veins from the outer leaves. Saute the onion and garlic. Mix them, the ground beef, rice and egg well. Roll up the meat mixture in the leaves, securing each roll with a toothpick. Chop all the leftover cabbage and mix it and a medium can or package of sauerkraut in the bottom of a large soup pot. Layer the cabbage rolls on top. Mix a can of condensed tomato soup with water and a bouillon cube (use two cans of soup if you want a lot of sauce) and pour the soup mixture over the rolls. Either simmer on the stove or bake in the oven until the rolls are tender. Make a roux from the butter and flour, and use it to thicken the sauce. Be sure to remove the toothpicks before serving. Serve with good crusty bread.

My Polish relatives and friends add sour cream at the end instead of the roux. My mom's first cousin uses cream of mushroom soup instead of tomato. Both variations are delicious, but I love Mom's best of all.


Anonymous said…
I have a Romanian friend who makes a version of this and it is one of my all time favorites!
Judy said…
These days, if I can't eat anything else I eat PB&J, only a healthier version than what I ate as a kid -- oat nut bread, natural peanut butter and that all fruit spread.

In fact, I might go make one now. My stomach has been a bit queasy these days.

As far as family stuff -- I always think of the Norwegian desserts my mom would make around the holidays. YUM!!
Margie said…
Go for it, Judy, and keep thinking of those desserts. I think those memories give us as much strength as the food itself!

It's funny how certain food settle our stomachs. When I was a kid and had a stomach flu and couldn't eat for awhile, the first thing I wanted when I felt a little better was my Mom's pizza. We're not Italian, so it probably wasn't very traditional, but she made it with a very thin crust, not too much sauce and cheese, but lots of pepperoni. Don't ask me why, but pepperoni always makes my stomach feel better. Weird.

Anon, I think the name "sarma" actually comes from the Romanian name for the dish, which I believe is "sarmale."

Lordy, I wish I had time to make some this weekend, now I'm craving it!
Air said…
I like to learn to cook food from different countries and have a comfort food for each one:
American - Chicken Divan
Japanese - Sushi (summer comfort food)
Thai - Tom Yum Goong soup
Australian - sausage rolls
Korean - Bi Bim Bap!

Yum. My mouth is now watering...
suz said…
As the daughter of a Polish man, I can say that this post reminded me greatly of my dad and my gramma. Stuffed Cabbage its called in my house (or golumpki). I dont care for it but I hear my sister makes a mean dish. (My polish gramma taught her).
spyderkl said…
Ooh, yes - our Polish neighbors in Western PA made that a lot; my grandmother did too, and we called them just cabbage rolls. The filling is really pretty tasty - I would dig the filling out of the cabbage, as I still don't care for green cabbage.

My very favorite comfort food is veggie bouillon and alphabet pasta - my veg-friendly version of what Mom made us when we were sick.
mia said…
I'm making these tonight! They look way too good. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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