The world's greatest comfort foods
It's a cold, rainy winter day and thanks to a splash-happy Prius driver, you're soaked through to the marrow. Your company just laid off half of its task force. And look -- new wrinkles. Will this head cold ever go away? You got dumped, you got dumped, you got dumped ...
What to do now? Stuff your face, of course.
While the causes of misery might vary, one thing's for sure -- when life turns sour, most of us go for something sweet. Or savory. Or homemade.
Treats that might be gentle on our stomach, treats that might be bad for our teeth, treats that somehow, through the simple act of tasting them, instantly make us feel better.
To qualify as a true comfort food, a dish must fulfill at least two of three requirements; it has restorative properties, it has sentimental appeal, and it’s insanely delicious.
Here’s our roundup of 10 of the world's best culinary remedies for human suffering. Get your hankies out, folks -- it’s gonna be a rough ride.
Ice cream, United States
Think of any modern romantic comedy to come out of Hollywood; what do citizens of the United States reach for when their boyfriend leaves them for their therapist?
A gun? A simple solution? Try a tub of ice cream.
Delicious and nostalgic, ice cream might just be the ultimate childhood redux, bringing us back to carefree summer days and birthday parties.
Ice cream is also highly fattening, making it just the thing to give your anguish a desperate, self-destructive flavor.
If you visit a household in the United States and find a graveyard of empty ice cream pints, you know something bad has just hit the fan.
Chocolate is a popular comfort food due to its all-out tastiness, electrifying sugar content and the healthy dose of feel-good alkaloids found in cocoa solids -- nature's gift to the blues.
Ferrero's hazelnut-infused chocolate spread might just be the most luscious form of chocolate ever.
Of all the Italians polled for this article, 100 percent of women cited Nutella as their go-to comfort food after a fight with their boyfriend or a miserable afternoon dealing with the Italian train system.
Slather it on bread, or -- in especially dire emergencies -- scoop it directly into your mouth with your fingers.
Chilaquiles are sometimes referred to as “garbage” food -- a plate created with whatever leftover scraps can be found in your basic Mexican kitchen.
If that’s so, then this heavenly blend of tortilla chips, cheese, shredded chicken, egg and steaming-hot salsa -- roja, verde, mole, whatever's on hand -- might just be the best thing to ever come out of a dumpster.
Chilaquiles are often eaten for breakfast; the fiery-hot sauce just the ticket to sop up the remnants of last night's tequila binge.
In the realm of savory comfort food, the humble potato is king, cropping up regularly as an ingredient in feel-better-quick dishes like french fries, mashed potatoes, and poutine.
But it's the Germans who take the potato's feel-good properties to the next level with the decadent kartoffelpuffer: a deep-fried potato pancake topped with applesauce, or -- for ultimate bliss -- lox and crispy bacon.
If deep-fried potato doesn't make you feel better, you're just not human.
Macaroni and cheese, North America
Mac and cheese is a North American dish traditionally made with short pasta and creamy Cheddar cheese sauce. It’s then baked, usually with a crispy bread-crumb crust.
Packaged brands with processed neon cheese like Velveeta and Kraft hold a special place in many North American’s hearts, but homemade mac ‘n’ cheese is hands down the best.
Just one crunchy, cheesy bite will help remind you that someone out there really does love you -- OK, you big lug?
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Khichdi, South Asia and Britain
From Delhi to Dhaka, Bahawalpur to Birmingham, the simple, earthy hodgepodge of rice, lentils and spices that is khichdi has been putting a smile on subcontinental faces for centuries.
It is strikingly nutritious for a comfort food, but millions of cheered-up devotees can't be wrong.
Khichdi ticks all three boxes on the comfort food scale -- it's tasty, is often served as a soothing “sick day” food and it conjures up strong memories of mom's home cooking.
Curry rice, Japan
Whether you're talking to mopey sad sacks in India, Thailand or the United Kingdom, when it comes to comfort there's just something about curry. Perhaps its fragrant blend of spices provides bonus aromatherapy.
In Japan, the “curry rice” (as it’s called there) comfort phenomenon has completely pervaded collective consciousness; so much so, it’s commonly cited as the national dish.
It's so popular that curry roux is widely available in brick form so that busy people can simply dissolve it in a pot of water, vegetables and meat and let the magic spices do their thing.
Talk about your loving spoonful.
Carbohydrates figure in many comfort foods, perhaps because the energy they provide gives depression a much-needed kick in the pants.
Koshary -- the food of the Egyptian masses -- is a carbohydrate bomb, loaded with lentils, fried onions, short pasta, vinegar and shatta, a tomato chili sauce.
Koshary is made in the home or sold on the streets by fiercely competitive vendors.
Have you ever tried to eat koshary while crying? It's not easy. But it feels so good.
Sunflower seeds, Russia
Sunflower seeds -- beloved in Russia as a high-energy food since the days of the Tsars -- are such a popular snack that they've become something of a national craze.
They enter this list as a different sort of comfort food; a nerve-calmer as opposed to an anguish-soother.
Sunflower seeds are to Russians what chewing gum or cigarettes are to other cultures -- a hit of relief in trying times.
Crack, chew, spit, let the seed husks collect on your chin. Repeat. Crack, chew, spit. Giant sigh. Ahhhh ...
Cheesecake, North America
Cheesecake isn’t by any means an exclusively North American treat -- historians say it originated in Ancient Greece, and other versions do exist throughout the world.
But bummed-out Canadians and Americans routinely turn to New-York-style cheesecake for a sweet, creamy, graham-crackery hit of comfort.
And don't worry -- the fruit topping makes it healthy. Would we lie to you?
That's our pick of the best feel-good eats from around the world, but there are plenty more to go around. Drop your tips in the comments below and we'll all feel a little better together.
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