Comfort foods: Quirky tastes have their place

grilled cheese and tomato soup

Most people these days settle for the texture of instant oatmeal. Made from convenient, premeasured pouches, even my dad accepts it as quick morning filler when it is a far cry from the old-fashioned oats he used to enjoy. That courser, chewier version is what I grew up with. Instead of popping single bowls in the microwave, we made enough for everyone who was eating in a pan on the stove, and it took a while to cook.

Mom used to stir milk into her serving of oats so it was blended together, but I learned to like mine the way Dad ate his. The oatmeal was firmly set so we broke it apart in large, soft chunks in our bowls, poured on milk (especially good when it’s warmed up), brown sugared it, and spooned up the oatmeal islands surrounded by the milk. This leaves the chewy oats and the milk (cold or hot) as two separate textures to appreciate.

Those comfort foods you loved from childhood are some of the best, most dearly associated cravings we can have. I picked up another comfort snack from my dad. Some nights at bedtime Dad would want a snack, usually when he’d gone back outside to an unfinished job and worked off his evening meal. If I was still up when he came in, he’d invite me to have crackers and milk with him.

We each took several saltines, broke them in a dish, and put cold milk over them (whole milk from Uncle Byron’s dairy herd). We fixed small portions, just enough to satisfy our “munchies”, and ate them promptly before they got soggy. Not the usual sweet treat like having milk on cobbler, the salty crackers in cold milk made a wonderful snack for a summer night.

The comfort food my daughters picked up from their dad (and I guess I have, too) is peanut butter on shredded wheat. The peanut butter spreads best on the large, rectangular wheat biscuits, but it also works on the round “muffets” style cereal that looks like small bales of hay. I have had tough times trying to spread it on individual mini-wheats when that was all we had, but I would not recommend the tedious process. After spreading the peanut butter on the cereal, we pour on milk and sprinkle white sugar over it. Not bad. It’s something Mark said his dad used to like.

It’s special when we can pass such nostalgic tastes along to the next generation. You probably have some unique comfort food combinations in your family, too. If you’d like to share yours with our readers, send in your descriptions so I can write about them. Maybe we’ll collect enough to set some new trends.

My daughter Kathie stumbled on a unique combination by accident at the Dairy Queen when part of a chicken tender fell in some chocolate ice cream. It tasted so good to her that it has become her standard pick me up on the way home from late play or music rehearsals when she if she was short on supper. We go through Wendy’s drive-thru, pick up chicken nuggets and a chocolate Frosty and she’s set with chocolate dipped chicken.

She says, “My kids will eat it someday.”

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