Just what is comfort food? Quite simply, its food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it. Sick or sad, comfort foods tend to make you feel better. They soothe the psyche, remind us of comforting childhood memories. For most, these foods that invoke this feeling of nostalgia, safety and security are far from gourmet, with simple preparation but regardless, they generally epitomize 'home cooking'.
Were you to google 'comfort food', the list is massive. Each country has its own favorites. Things like haggis, Jam Rolly Poly, vegitmite on toast, sticky date pudding, baked beans, pot roast, even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, all make the list. For most Newfoundlanders Jiggs Dinner and Fish and Brewis top the list. But for me, Nanny's Meatloaf with Secret Sauce brings me back to my childhood.
I don`t have a lot of pleasant memories surrounding food from growing up. I was a picky child who would turn her nose up at mashed potatoes, blood pudding, salt fish, liver and stew. But these were the things my father liked, so these were the things my mother cooked. Every now and then though, she`d make something I did find palatable, such as Nanny`s Meatloaf with Secret Sauce. Just the smell of it cooking makes me feel better somehow.
Meatloaf has European origins and is considered a traditional German and Belgian dish. Meatloaf of minced meat was mentioned in the famous Roman cookery collection Apicius as early as the 5th century, but in its contemporary American sense, didn`t appear in cookbooks until the late 19th century. American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple served by German-Americans since Colonial times. During The Great Depression, cooking meatloaf was a way to stretch the food budget for families, using an inexpensive type of meat and adding cereal grains to stretch the meat even further.
There are many variations for meatloaf internationally, with Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Romania all placing hard boils eggs inside so that when you slice the loaf, you get rings of yellow and white egg in the center. In Austria, meatloaf isn`t filled but is usually wrapped in ham before baking. Its also a staple in southern Chile cuisine, quite possibly due to the arrival of German settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
I have no idea what ethnicity influenced my grandmother`s meatloaf but I assume it`s a combination of American and British. Nanny`s meatloaf was stuffed with a savory bread dressing, baked in the oven and served sliced with a sauce that I`ve always known simply as `Nanny`s Secret Sauce`. In trying to replicate this sauce I`ve come to discover it`s simply a combination of ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, soya sauce and brown sugar.
The first time I made meatloaf for my husband, before he actually was my husband, prior to eating it he said, Ì make a really good meatloaf too! Let`s see if your`s is as good as mine.`After eating my meatloaf, his comment was, Òk, so I can never make my meatloaf for you or anyone else ever again.` True to his word...he has not.
No matter how meticulous you are with health and nutrition, food that soothes the soul has its place and time. Not to be confused with `stress eating`, which typically consists of consuming high carbohydrate foods, comfort food eating actually increases levels of the `feel good`neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain, resulting in calmness and peace. Comfort food doesn`t necessarily have to be good for you, to be good for you - all things in moderation I say. The recipe for Nanny's Meatloaf with Secret Sauce can be found under 'Beef' in my recipe section.