From time to time, I get the blues for no particular reason, which I guess it’s quite normal this time of year (especially if you, like me, live in the northern hemisphere). I know I’m not alone in this one. And from time to time, neither a new pair of shoes, nor new lipstick, nor a new haircut succeeds in pulling me out of this funk. When nothing else will do (and sometimes even when something else will do just fine), the response to the blues is comfort food – thus named for a reason.
I’ve heard people’s own takes on this – bacon sandwiches, hearty roasted dishes, casseroles, a nice greasy cheeseburger with a side of fries and a chocolate milkshake, shepherd’s pie, and one particularly interesting one, of jasmine rice mixed in with home-made misoshiru paste.
Until I moved away from home, comfort food was whatever came out of my Nonna’s oven – the home-made lasagna being an all-time classic. She always made it so all the flavours were just right: the acidity of the tomato sauce softly cut by a certain sweetness, which in turn didn’t clash with the taste or the tenderness of the rich minced meat, the flavour of which was enhanced by basil and something I’m afraid I will never be able to identify, all wrapped up in pasta that was cooked to perfection… No bad day was ever so bad that it couldn’t be fixed with Nonna’s lasagna and the magical ambiance of her kitchen: the two big refrigerators in the corner, the hand-painted tiled table-top which Nonna painted herself when she was young, the old clock ticking on the wall, Ludovico the cat absolutely hypnotised by Nonna’s every move, looking at the lasagna like he was wondering where he could hide the leftovers.
Whenever I asked her how she accomplished this perfect dish every time, my Nonna’s answer was always the same: “Oh, I don’t know, little bit of this, little bit of that, and a bit of the leftovers from (insert traditional Italian everyday meal here).”
Having lived away from home for so many years now, I have been looking for comfort food that could be a potential contender to Nonna’s delicious lasagna. I know that even if I find it, she won’t be sitting at the edge of the table asking me why I’m “only” eating half of the whole dish (she always thought I was only skin and bones, and not overeating in her presence was a serious insult). I suppose the closest I’ve come to it was the Andouillette served at the lovely Bistrot de Charlotte in Geneva, which I tried on a day when I felt particularly miserable and with the wholehearted encouragement of The Angry Chef (much to my distress, they had run out of mussels that day, and he suggested it as an alternative). It came close enough, and I will certainly tell you more about it sometime – even though it wasn’t exactly like Nonna’s lasagna.
Thank you for reading, and all the best for the week ahead!