Comfort food for a long dark night

Here in New England winter has been slow in coming. Following a freak October snowstorm that brought down trees and powerlines, we had weeks of unseasonably warm weather that have been both lovely and unsettling. Warm days mean we’ve had a chance to spend more time outside, but we’re walking in early winter dark at 4:30, when it’s 65f amongst leafless trees. At night we see cold weather constellations but there are swarms of moths that cling to cars, follow headlights and flutter in confusion, thinking it must be spring.

I’ve been confused too. By this time of year I’m usually deep in cold weather cooking, making the things that bring me the most comfort against the chill dark. In this unexpected warmth I’m not quite sure what to do, but the dark, oh the dark calls for comfort.

Brightly colored squash and rich soups. Yeasty breads and roasted chickens. All of these speak to me of home and hearth, of warmth through the long winter, of companionship in the dark. The process of preparing these foods - the scraping and chopping, mixing and kneading, seasoning and tasting - and their long slow wait in the heat of the oven, brings me to the happily-ever-after once-upon-a-time of old women who offer magical feasts to travelers on a winter’s night. These are foods for long conversation and gratitude. They remind us of our ties to the earth, of the passage of our time on this planet, of the value of light in the dark.

What foods give you comfort? What tastes and textures bring you warmth and safety through the long night?

(c) 2011 Laura S. Packer


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