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Comfort Foods

 This is the introduction I  wrote for Rita Harris' Book, "America's Favorite  Foods, Cooked the Way You Like Them," available  through

 This is life in a  nutshell--"You're born. Someone slaps you. You  cry. Someone gives you milk. You stop crying."

From that moment on,  food is more than just "something to eat," it's  the thing that makes you stop crying.

As living, breathing  animals (yes, that's what we are), food is comfort  and has been for as long as creatures have been on this  earth. It's not just people, you've seen a  dog smile  after getting a "treat," right?

Even psychologists will  tell you that the most basic thing people seek in life is  not money, sex, or thin thighs--it's comfort. But  what about health-aren't comfort foods those bad things  that we're supposed to learn to live without? Maybe not:

Jim Fixx ate nothing but  green vegetables for years, spent half his time running  in those little short shorts that aren't attractive on  anyone, and he died before he was 50. James Beard was a  giant of a man who made fresh bread every day and ate it  hot out of the oven, slathered with butter. He ate  mountains of butter, gallons of cream, rooms full of  chocolate. He lived to be 82. Plus, who do you think  had a better time?

OK, so maybe it has more  to do with genetics than food--what does that tell you?  When it's your time to go  you'll go--no one is sitting in  heaven tabulating the grams of fat you've eaten and  whisking you away when you reach a certain number. If  they did, Julia Child would have died at 21 and Ghandi  would have lived to be 150.

Why what you want is  also what's good for you.

 My mother always told  me, "Enjoy today--you could be hit by a bus  tomorrow." Those are words to live by, and  they've never been more true.

The truth is that no  matter how little fat we eat or how much we run, we're  all going to die sometime. It's sad, but true and there's  no escaping it (even if you try to turn yourself into a  popsickle so you can come back when they've perfected  that genetic stuff that currently makes fat rats  thin--and applied it to people of course, because who  cares about overweight rats and why do they always get  this stuff before we people do... but I digress). So  enjoy yourself.

Every week so-called  "dieticians" appear on the news and tell us  that Italian food is deadly. Mexican food is lethal. Deli  food is like putting a corned beef to your head and  pulling the trigger. Movie popcorn is poison. It's  rumored that their next big announcement will be that  even vegetables are toxic--they contain pesticides and  besides, you can choke on them.

Well, let's look at the  facts. There are plenty of extremely old Italians,  Mexicans, Jews, and movie patrons of all races. Our  parents didn't know Cholesterol from Chimichangas and  most of them lived to a ripe old age. The non-kosher  among them even ate bacon every day  for breakfast and  lived to tell about it.

More facts--Italians,  Mexicans, and Jews (who all eat this supposedly deadly  food) tend to be happy people (well, Italians and  Mexicans perhaps more than Jews, but that has less to do  with food and more to do with guilt).

Let's contrast these  groups with dieticians. Have you ever taken a good hard  look at a dietician? They're well-meaning to be sure, but  do they look like a happy  bunch? You can always spot them  at a party: they're the thin, pasty-faced ones, with the  corners of their mouths turned down in disapproval as you  head for the chips and dip. They're responsible for  hospital and airline food--get the picture? These are  the same people who spent the last 30 years telling us  that margarine was better for us than butter--which of  course has turned out to be completely untrue. Case  closed.

 Don't get the wrong  idea-comfort food isn't about gluttony--it's about  the comfort and joy that certain special foods can  bring us. Eaten in moderation, even the richest foods can  be healthful--not to mention emotionally and spiritually  uplifting.

The food in this book

 Everybody has a  different comfort food--we tend to have sentimental  feelings towards what we ate as a kid--even if it came  from "The Coronel." It reminds us of a time  when other people took care of us and all we had to do  was look both ways before crossing a street.

So while every recipe in  this book may not press your particular comfort button,  you'll surely find some that do--and when you do, treat  yourself to the luxury of  indulging yourself.

You deserve it--we  all do.

If you still feel too  much guilt about eating real food that makes you  feel good, or have such a low self-esteem you think you  don't deserve it, then you can always tear out the  pages of the book and suck on them. They're entirely  fat-free and should appeal to the masochist inside you  (which, in turn, should make you feel comfortable, so  there!). And besides, unless you try it, you'll never  know what flavor ink we used!



 Copyright © 2005 Daniel Will-Harris,

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