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Comfort foods for those long winter days

The first soft gentle snow of winter is always a wonder to behold. It marks the passing of the seasons, and here in the mid-Atlantic region often suggests that the holidays are approaching fast.

By February, however, only those who love winter — The Legal Genealogist most definitively not among them – look on winter weather as anything other than lasting too long and not ending nearly soon enough.

By February, we’re all hunkered down, tired of gray skies, tired of ice, tired of snow, and desperately looking for some color and warmth in our lives.

By February, at a minimum, we’re all looking for comfort food.

In the house where I grew up, comfort food was made in bulk. Having roughly a kazillion brothers and sisters inevitably meant that comfort food was prepared in the largest pot or pan in the kitchen.

Spaghetti with homemade sauce.

Chilis and other bean dishes.

Casseroles by the dozens.

But every so often something a little special — a little out of the ordinary.

Sometimes the little-out-of-the ordinary didn’t work so well. One of our comfort dishes was simply called tuna noodles. It’s about the easiest thing in the world to make — it’s simply a sauce of cream of mushroom soup, milk, and tuna over egg noodles. We all loved it. Until the day my mother decided her children weren’t eating enough green vegetables.

And she laced the tuna noodles with peas.

And then promptly had the pleasure of sitting there at dinner watching each of her many children carefully and methodically picking the peas out of the tuna noodles and moving them to the side of the plate where we stayed while we ate the tuna noodles.

She didn’t do that again.

But then there were things a little out of the ordinary that worked amazingly well.

fried peanut butter sandwichShe was an absolute whiz at making homemade pizza. She made her own dough, she made her own sauce. The only problem was having enough oven space to make enough pizzas to feed all those hungry children, not to mention the two adults in the household. It was always a treat if you managed to score a slice of the first pizza out of the oven, rather than having to wait for the last pizza out of the oven.

Winter lunches were an every day thing. We lived close enough to the elementary school to walk home for lunch and our daily comfort food was always soup. Generally Campbell soup out of the can — vegetable beef, chicken noodle, one of my siblings even liked bean with bacon — but sometimes we’d get something a little out of the ordinary. A soup made from a Lipton mix (“is it soup yet”) and sometimes even homemade soup.

Sandwiches to go along with the soup were usually just bologna or liverwurst — something I never learned to like — but every so often something a little out of the ordinary: scrambled egg sandwiches with crumbled bacon.

And then there were the best of all. Fried sandwiches richly buttered on the outside and the inside filled with melted gooey goodness. No, not cheese. Not in our household. Cheese in our household meant smelly German cheese or Velveeta. No, the insides of these fried sandwiches were much better than smelly cheese or fake cheese.

Our comfort food was fried peanut butter sandwiches. Some of us liked the smooth peanut butter. Some of us liked the extra chunky. Some of us liked it on plain white bread. Some of us wanted a sturdier grain. But all of us — all of us without exception — all of us loved the melted gooey goodness of fried peanut butter sandwiches.

So here we are, again, in February on another gray day without color or warmth. Winter has been going on forever. It seems that it will continue forever. We all need a little comfort in our lives this great February day.

I don’t know about you — but I think I’ll make a fried peanut butter sandwich.

What’s your comfort food for the grays of February?

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