Today, I discovered the true meaning of the phrase comfort food. I came home from work late after slogging away all day but getting nowhere. My head hurt, I had more groceries than I could carry and my nose was running from the cold. Just to ice the cake, my bag strap squeaked with every step I took. I was, in short, tired and fed up. But at least I was home, in Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, my keys were in Utrecht.
I cursed. Frantically searched my bag again. Cursed some more. Unpacked my bag completely. Considered voodooing the empty bag. Got a grip and dialed my brother (he lives just around the corner and has a spare set of my keys).
“I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message after the tone…”. Crap.
Called my man, who has the second spare set. “Hey beautiful. Are you still in Amsterdam?” “Nope.” CRAP.
Considered going to my parents’ house for the third, and final, set of spare keys, but decided against it. They live an hour and a half away, and I just didn’t feel up to it. Then I almost decided to head back to work to recover the missing keys, but realized the office was likely to close before I could get there.
Defeated, I took one last, wistful, look at the cabbage I’d bought to make Nigella’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad, and recognized there was only one thing for it.
“Hey little brother, it’s me again. If you get this message, please come get me from the pub at the corner.”
Ten minutes later, I was at a table for one, with a flickering candle and a bowl of onion soup. And never before did I feel quite as clearly, right down into my bones, what “comfort food” means. Forget mending broken hearts, softening the blow of rejection or cushioning a fall from grace. Comfort food is food that makes you feel at home, even when you can’t get home.
(My brother did come pick me up, two hours and a pot full of cheese fondue later. He is my hero. Heroes are the people who take you home and open the door for you.)