Marsha Canham's Blog

June 16, 2011

Comfort food and other goodies

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 2:17 pm

What is your comfort food?  You know, the stuff you make on days when it feels like the world is crashing down around your ears and you need a steel umbrella.  Or your kids have decided to move out and leave you with an empty nest (this would be after you leap up and down for joy, throw a huge party, drink champagne, knock out walls, make their bedroom into an office and totally redecorate it in all their least favourite colours so there’s no chance of them wanting to come back) or you realize it’s been months since your grandkids have tumbled through the front door and the first words on their lips are: can we sleep over!!  Won’t even mention going through the apocalypse of divorce cuz that needs way more than simple comfort food, although…much of it was required.

We’re talking the stuff that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, the stuff that throws you back to your childhood when your mother seemed to know exactly what you needed to cheer you up after your older sister ripped the head off your favorite doll and hung it from a noose as a warning not to snoop through her diary. Just a warning, mind you, *in case* you ever thought of doing it.

My dad, for instance used to love tuna on toast.  He worked shifts as a cop and used to come home at odd hours sometimes, so if he was hungry and had a rotten day dealing with car-burners (won’t even go into how stupid THAT all was last night, although it does reinforce my belief about the mentality of some sports fans) and if there was no sandwich or plate of leftovers waiting in the fridge a la June Cleaver, he would take out a can of mushroom soup, a can of tuna, a can of peas and toss them all into a pot with a good dollop of worchesterchesterwhatevershire sauce.  If I even smelled it from my room, behind a closed door, in the depths of a deep sleep, I was right there with him, making the toast and buttering it, then getting those warm fuzzies watching him ladle a big scoop onto my plate.

That has remained my number one comfort food.  I think I tried making it a couple of times for the Clone, but he was never too keen on it, and Stupid wouldn’t touch it. Said it reminded him too much of tuna casserole and he hated that. Faugh. His loss. 

Number two on the list is tomato soup spaghetti. It stems, again, from childhood, when budgets were tight and no one bought spaghetti sauce out of a tin can, it was all homemade and took a day to cook and simmer and season and thicken. Some days, however, there were emergency spaghetti cravings and in a pinch, my mother would open a can of tomato soup, add butter and a heaping spoonful of Cheese Whiz and voila. We had spaghetti sauce.  Oddly enough it *only* works on elbow macaroni.  Long spaghetti pasta or bow ties or penne just don’t work.  Has to be elbow mac and has to be Campbells.

Can’t have comfort food without curling up and watching a comfort movie.  I read a blog yesterday, which probably inspired this one, about one of my favorite movies…Auntie Mame, with Rosalind Russell.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve watched that, and have been watching it since way back when it first came out.  I’ve read the book down to tattered pages too, and if you think the movie is fun and funny, the book by Patrick Dennis is hysterical.

Another movie that gets popped in frequently is Pocketful of Miracles with Glen Ford. It was, possibly, his only comedy aside from the Courtship of Eddie’s Father, which was so goofy it barely rates a mention.  Ford was always the 3:10 to Yuma guy, the quintessential Western hero along with John Wayne, Randolf Scott, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry.  So finding him in a movie about gangsters in the roaring 20’s, with Bette Davis and Peter Falk and a whole cast of loonies all hamming it up around him while he tried to keep a relatively straight face…it struck just the right funny bone and instantly became a comfort movie.  When Peter Falk mashes the end of his cigar in his mouth and picks up the phone and snarls “Talk” that sends me off the chair laughing every time.  I will confess I have started to skim through all the smarmy bits with Ann Margaret, especially the five minutes worth of “we interrupt this fun movie to introduce you to Ann Margaret, Hollywood’s newest starlet, while she warbles a song that has no place whatsoever in this movie but we’re hoping she makes us a bazillion dollars”.

Another comfort movie is The Great Escape.  It’s a fabulous movie and one of the networks used to run it every New Years Day without fail.  I had a heck of a time finding it on DVD a few years back, but since it rarely plays on TV anymore, the effort was well worth it.  Same thing with Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia.  Great movies that most of our kids and grandkids haven’t seen and probably won’t see because there are no robots or exploding planets.

Then of course there is the whole Errol Flynn section on my DVD rack.  He still has the ability to make my little heart skip a few beats when they show a close-up.  Even as campy and vampy as Robin Hood and Captain Blood were, I can still watch them and nosh my tuna melt or my tomato soup spaghetti and get all warm and fuzzy inside.

There are a whole bunch of other movies I haven’t been able to find… Leslie Howard in the Scarlet Pimpernel for instance. I haven’t looked, mind you, in a couple of years because I sort of gave up trying, but it was the definite inspiration for my book, Pale Moon Rider.  Howard was perfect for the role of the Pimpernel, just as he was perfect as Ashley in Gone With The Wind, and need I even say that GWTW is right up there on the comfort list…oddly enough, only the first half though.  After the intermission when Scarlet moves to Atlanta and marries Mr.Kennedy…blah. I lose interest.  Might look up from the crochetting to watch Rhett sweep her into his arms and carry her up the staircase, but that’s about it.

Keep in mind these are *comfort* movies, which are subtley  different from *favourite* movies.  That would make a whole different list, including stuff like Pearl Harbor and Titanic and Braveheart, Gladiator, Exodus, Dances with Wolves, Master and Commander, the two Elizabeth movies…augh…that list could go on and on.

But this is a comfort blog for comfort food and comfort movies.  What are yours?



  1. Ah, the Scarlet Pimpernel. My all-time favorite book and, yes I loved the movie version with Leslie Howard. More comfort movies for me, the North and South Series with Patrick Swayze. Oh! Scent of a Woman! Comfort books, aside from the Scarlet Pimpernel, any of the first five Kathleen Woodiwiss novels.

    Comfort food for me used to be chocolate icecream with banana slices. That’s where the chocolate dipped bananas from Equible Arrangements comes in, Marsha! LOL And, pototo chips used to be a must for comfort. I say used to be because my tastes have changed since I’ve gotten a LITTLE older and I’ve lost a good deal of weight because of it. I don’t care for potato chips anymore and my comfort food of choice now is a poached egg on toast…whole wheat toast, at that.

    I’ve made your special tomato sauce, in a pinch, exactly as you describe and you’re right, it only works for elbow macaroni…very rich and very filling.

    I know a woman, who is now 96 years old, bless her heart, and she would wake up in the middle the night and make creamed peas on toast. Maybe that’s one reason she had lived to be 96. *g*

    Comment by Jill Metcalf — June 16, 2011 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  2. Actually my mother used to make that tomato soup spaghetti. I never touched it. I do not like tomato soup. She called it poor people’s spaghetti.
    My favorite comfort food is my breakfast. Big heaping scoops of Nestle Quick in just a little bit of milk and scooping out the bottom. I have been eating this for breakfast since I was five…which is a very long time and had endured much persecution over it….but still I cannot give it up. I have tried a few times but this is my staple and probably will be for a very long time. Not sure about comfort movies. Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, the Waterboy. These you just have to watch and laugh.

    Comment by Juliet — June 16, 2011 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  3. My mother was a fabulous cook, so I’ve no memories of tuna on toast. She made a terrific meatloaf, however, and I was just thinking of making it today. As for favorite comfort movies, I love HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH and the 1996 version of LONE STAR is perfect whenever I’m home alone on a Saturday night.

    Comment by Phoebe Conn — June 16, 2011 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

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