Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture.
The term comfort food has been traced back at least to 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: "Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup." They are believed to be a great coping mechanism for rapidly soothing negative feelings.
Comfort foods may be consumed to reduce stress and feel better.
One study divided college-students' comfort-food identifications into four categories (nostalgic foods, indulgence foods, convenience foods, and physical comfort foods) with a special emphasis on the deliberate selection of particular foods to modify mood or effect, and indications that the medical-therapeutic use of particular foods may ultimately be a matter of mood-alteration.
The identification of particular items as comfort food may be idiosyncratic, though patterns are detectable. In one study of American preferences, "males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup) while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age." The study also revealed strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt. An article, "The Myth of Comfort Food" asserted that men tend to choose these types of savory comfort foods because they remind them of being "pampered" or spoiled, while women choose snack-related foods because they are associated with low amounts of work and less "cleanup." It also suggested that women are more likely to reach for unhealthier foods in times of stress due to more weight-conscious mindsets.
Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress and, consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States. The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.
Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women. The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress. For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.
A therapeutic use of these findings includes offering comfort foods or "happy hour" beverages to anorectic geriatric patients whose health and quality of life otherwise decreases with reduced oral intake.
A partial list by country of comfort foods around the world.
Comfort foods in Afghanistan are:
- Aushak – stuffed dumplings and sauce
- Bolani – flatbread
- Borani Kadoo or Borani-e-Kado – sweet and savory braised pumpkin with yogurt sauce
- Borani Banjan or Borani-e-Banjan – baked eggplant with yogurt sauce
- Chainaki – lamb stew
- Chalaw or Challow – steamed rice with spices
- Kebab – grilled skewered meat
- Kabuli palaw or Qabuli Palu – steamed rice with raisins, carrots, and lamb
- Karahai – meat cooked in a traditional karahi pot
- Korma Gosht or Qorma-e-Gosht – braised meat
- Mantu – meat-stuffed dumpling
- Sabzi Palu – spinach (sabzi) with spices
Australia and New Zealand
garnished with fruit and cream
Comfort foods in Australia and New Zealand may include:
British comfort foods include the following foods:
Some Czech comfort food include:
- Svíčková – beef sirloin in cream sauce served with dumplings, whipped cream, lemon and cranberries
- Vývar s nudlemi – clear broth with vegetables and noodles
- Bramboráky – potato pancake
- Chleba ve vajíčku – slices of leftover bread, coated in a blend of eggs, milk and salt, then fried
- Knedlíky s vejcem – leftover dumplings with eggs
- Krupicová kaše – grits boiled in milk. Topped with butter, cocoa powder (sweetened, typically brand Granko), nuts, fruits, honey or powdered sugar
- Smažený sýr – fried cheese, usually served with tartar sauce and fries
- Špagety se sýrem – spaghetti, usually with ketchup and topped with grated cheese (eidam)
- Žemlovka – a baked dish made with layers of sliced rolls or buns called žemle, sliced apples and milk or eggs. It is served with cinnamon and raisins.
- Štrúdl or závin (Strudel) – can be sweet (with apples, raisins, walnuts, grated coconut or cherry) or savoury (with cabbage, spinach, cheese or meat)
- Šišky s mákem – potato dumplings with melted butter and poppy seeds
- Topinky – fried slices of (leftover) bread, served with garlic and salt
- Húsleves - clear broth, with noodles vegetables and meat (served separate)
- Töltött káposzta - stuffed cabbage
- Finomfőzelék - creamy vegetable "stew"
- Lekváros palacsinta - crêpes with jam
- Bécsi szelet - wiener schnitzel
- Paradicsomleves - tomato soup
- Paradicsomos húsgombóc - meatball with tomato sauce
Comfort food in India usually varies between states and cities. Typically it is freshly eaten and easily available at roadside eateries or shops. Homemade food, especially by mothers, has a high sentimental value. This includes a very common Indian comfort food known as khichdi, which is also used for babies and convalescents.
Some popular Indonesian foods are considered to be comfort food, usually served hot or warm, and soupy or with a soft texture. Comfort foods often are the kind of food that provides nostalgic sentiments, as they often called masakan rumahan (home cooking) or masakan ibu (mother's dishes). In Indonesia, the warm and soft texture of bubur ayam is believed to help people to recover during convalescence. Sayur sop or sup ayam is Indonesian chicken soup that often sought during flu. The warm soup contains chunk of chicken, bits of potato, carrot, and common green bean served in chicken stock.
Some Indonesian comfort foods are traditional Indonesian food and some are derived from Chinese influences. For some Indonesians, especially those who are abroad, comfort food might also be a certain brand or type of Indonesian instant noodle, such as Indomie Mi goreng. Indonesian comfort foods include:
Steamed pierogi, with fried onions on top
Some Polish comfort food include:
- Barszcz z uszkami – clear beetroot soup with forest mushrooms tortellini
- Boczek – smoked pork belly
- Bigos – hunters stew
- Budyń waniliowy z malinami – vanilla pudding with raspberries
- Kotlet schabowy – pork schnitzel
- Flaki – tripe
- Golonka – pickled ham hock
- Gulasz – goulash / meat and vegetable stew
- Zupa grzybowa – wild mushroom soup
- Jagody ze śmietaną – blueberries with cream
- Kapuśniak – sauerkraut soup
- Kopytka – Polish gnocchi / potato dumpling
- Łazanki – large flat noodles with fried sauerkraut
- Makaron ze śmietaną i truskawkami – pasta with cream and strawberries
- Mielone z ziemniakami i mizerią – pork burgers with mashed potato and fresh cucumbers sour cream salad
- Naleśniki z twarogiem – pancakes with milk curd
- Zupa ogórkowa – sour cucumber soup
- Pierogi – filled dumplings 
- Placki ziemniaczane – potato pancakes
- Rosół – chicken soup with fine noodles
- Sernik – baked cheesecake
- Śledź w oleju – pickled herring
- Zapiekanka – toasted open-face sandwich
- Zupa pomidorowa – clear tomato soup with rice or noodles
- Zupa szczawiowa – sorrel soup served with boiled egg
- Żurek – sour rye soup
- Wódka - vodka
Some Puerto Rican comfort foods include:
- Arroz con gandules – rice with pigeon peas
- Arroz con pollo – rice with chicken
- Bistec encebollado – steak and onions
- Carne frita con tostones – fried pork with fried plantains
- Carne Guisada – stewed beef
- Carne mechada – Puerto Rican style meatloaf
- Churrasco – grilled flank or skirt steak
- Cuchifritos and Fritanga – assortments of fried appetizers (alcapurrias, bacalaitos, pastelitos/pastelillos, piononos, sorrullos/sorullitos)
- Habichuelas guisadas con calabaza – beans stewed with pumpkin
- Lechón asado – roast pork
- Mixta – white rice, stewed beans with pumpkin and stewed meat with potatoes and carrots
- Mofongo and trifongo – fried mashed green plantains
- Mofongo relleno de mariscos, carne o pollo – Fried mashed green plantains stuffed with seafood, meat or chicken
- Pasteles – Puerto Rican tamales
- Pastelón de plátano maduro – ripe banana casserole with ground beef and cheddar cheese
- Pinchos – Puerto Rican skewers
- Sancocho – popular stew broth, very succulent made from different ingredients; it may contain, among others, beef, pork, tubers, vegetables and herbs.
- Sopón – rice soup with chicken or shrimp
- Tostones – fried plantain slices
- Tripleta – Criollo bread sandwich, ham, steak and chicken, mayonnaise, ketchup and tomato salad and cabbage
Russia and Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian comfort foods may include but are not limited to:
Mantı, with yogurt and red pepper sauce
In Turkish, comfort food is closest in meaning to Turkish: Anne yemeği, "mother's dish", especially in terms of providing a nostalgic feeling, or Turkish: Ev yemeği, "home dish". Some Turkish comfort foods are:
American comfort foods may include the following foods:
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France's love affair with the Italian chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella is well-known.... In fact, according to some figures 26 percent of the world consumption of Nutella is done by the French even though the brand is Italian. This means that around a whopping 75,000 tonnes of Nutella are consumed every year in France. France's long love affair with the chocolate spread starts, for many, at childhood when it is the sweet and some say sickly breakfast of choice for many French school children. And according to Paris food writer and author of the blog Chocolate & Zucchini Clotilde Dusoulier it could be this childhood link which is partly behind the France's love for Nutella. "French people eat it by the spoonful. I had it on toast for breakfast as a child," Dusoulier told The Local. "And like with candy, grownups continue to eat it to connect with their inner child." The food writer also explained that the French have a tendency to turn to sweets in times of uncertainty.
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