Modern Comfort Food is a cooking blog established by me, Barbara DeGroot, to share recipes I treasure. These recipes reflect my own take on classic family dishes that I grew up with and love — or that have been introduced to me by friends — adapted to emphasize the use of fresh, seasonal, and more wholesome ingredients.
What is comfort food?
The American Heritage Dictionary provides this beautiful answer, which I certainly can’t improve upon:
Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment.
What is modern comfort food?
My definition reflects concern about a number of food trends occurring in recent decades:
I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when family dinners were “updated” to involve cans, cans, and more cans. Some dishes, including the ubiquitous green bean casserole, were assembled entirely from canned ingredients. My notion of modern comfort food involves an appreciation of the value, and taste, of fresh, seasonal ingredients and their use where available.
In the 70s and 80s, elaborately processed foods, some of which were billed as “lite,” began showing up on the grocery store shelves in increasing numbers. My notion of modern comfort food instead involves using basic ingredients that I understand and that offer the taste I expect in food: whole grains, pulses, butter, vegetable and nut oils, milk, yogurt, fresh and aged cheeses, and the like, used in moderation.
In the 90s, globalization of the food industry gave us the freedom to ignore the seasons entirely in our grocery shopping choices by offering fresh foods sourced from other continents. However, this freedom, which I’ve certainly been guilty of exercising, carries heavy environment costs in transporting these treats to us. My notion of modern comfort food increasingly acknowledges the environmental implications of what we chose to eat and emphasizes the use of ingredients that are locally, and organically, produced wherever possible, preferably sourced from my own garden or farmers’ market.
Finally, the homogenizing effect of our fast food culture on our rich food heritage represents, I think, a loss. My notion of modern comfort food seeks to celebrate, and learn more about, the diverse regional cooking styles available to us.
Who am I and what is my background?
I grew up in the US on the Florida coast and was the product of what I would call a mixed marriage in the culinary sense. My mother was raised on a small, self-sufficient family farm in Florida. From her, I gained a deep love of Southern comfort food in all its glories and an appreciation of a vegetable-rich diet. My father was raised in a small German farming town in the Iowa heartland and was more of a meat and potatoes man. As a result, controversy periodically raged in my family regarding the merits of collards vs. cabbage, okra vs. rutabaga, sweet potato pie vs. pumpkin pie, chicken vs. beef, and other features of the American south/north food divide. However, my mother, the primary cook in our family and an excellent one, generally tried to keep the peace by accommodating both views.
I have spent my adult life working as an urban development consultant to various international donor organizations and have lived primarily in Africa and Asia over the past 30 years. For this reason, my cooking repertoire has naturally expanded to include a number of favorite dishes considered comfort foods in the countries where I lived and for which I will occasionally offer recipes on this website.
Presently, I split my time between my two long-time homes, on the Florida coast and at my extended family’s organic dairy farm, Yellow Branch Farm, in western North Carolina, U.S.A.
Thank you for visiting Modern Comfort Food.