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December 10, 2003: The taste of comfortable

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Last week we were all sitting around talking about what comfort means to us, and of course the discussion naturally drifted to food, and since this week's theme for the class was Comfort, we decided we'd all meet an hour early and have a potluck dinner, with everyone bringing their own 'comfort food'.

I had to think about what to bring for a while. Pop tarts and ice cream are one of my favorite comfort foods but I wasn't sure how well that would go over with the rest of the group, and I didn't want to have to do anything (like grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) that would require any cleanup later. So I finally decided to make potato cheese soup, which is one of my favorite things in the winter. It's thick and hearty and it's delicious and it would also be a way of having at least one vaguely nutritious entrée at the dinner because let's face it, comfort food is *never* good for you.

The only problem with this little plan was that our blender died weeks ago during an aborted attempt at making peach yogurt smoothies, and we have yet to replace it. The potato cheese soup is a very simple recipe – you cut up potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions, toss them into a pot with some water and then boil them until they're soft - but it does require the use of a blender to puree all the veggies into something that looks less like a regurgitated squash and more like something you might want to eat. And while potatoes, carrots and celery can all be more or less pureed using a regular kitchen mixer, this does not work for onions, no matter how well cooked they might be. After trying – and failing – to improvise this morning, I finally sent my mom an email begging for the use of her blender for one night. And then I had to leave work early because I had to somehow manage to get home in time to not only feed the cats (darn special diets requiring separate meals, grumble grumble), but to zip off to my parents' house, find their blender, come home, toss all the soup parts into the blender, and then stir in the cheese and heat it up, all within the space of slightly less than an hour. Luckily when I explained to my boss that I had to leave early for blender issues he was extremely understanding, although that may have had more to do with the fact that I'd managed to finish up all the additional data extraction and creation of pretty graphs by the time I wanted to leave than just that he was humoring me.

It was a dinner with good food and good friends, sitting around a long folding table in the unheated social hall at the church, laughing and talking and passing around the serving dishes and eating it all with plastic silverware and paper plates and bowls because we were trying not to make a mess we'd have to clean up later. It was a wonderful potluck dinner. There was a bucket of chicken from KFC, homemade macaroni and cheese, a taco dip, monkey bread covered in streusel topping and walnuts, and cupcakes made from scratch. An entire dinner of comfort food, with the only vegetable in sight hidden away in the creamy orangeness that was my potato cheese soup.

Sometimes it's nice to just not think about how many servings of vegetables might be in the meal, or how many points are in each entrée, or whether I've calculated out the correct size for the portion. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and eat food that you know is probably bad for you, but it tastes so good you don't care. Sometimes you just have to allow yourself to only eat comfort food, and not waste a moment dwelling on anything else but how nice it is to just, for one brief moment of time, let it be.

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