The Spice of Life

This article first appeared at the Writers At Play blog, February 11, 2009.

Tawny’s post about sentimental items got me stewing on what I’m nostalgic about. Sure, I have jewelry pieces that are extra-special to me, but what really soothes my soul is food. Not just any food, mind you. Cheetos, while a sinful treat, will get me through that afternoon lull, but it’s a superficial high. A juicy apple will make me feel good about choosing a healthy snack, but it’s like driving a serviceable car: It’ll get you where you need to go, but not with a lot of style.

At Christmas I bake Donauswaben nusskipfel (nut cookies), but those are about celebration. Where do I turn when I need to hit the reset button? What do I eat when I have to regroup and revive? I go home to Chicken Paprikash. 

Chicken Paprikash is one of those dishes that each grandma (or Oma or Baba) makes differently and it’s usually a recipe learned without knowing the exact measurements for anything. All the variations of paprikash ultimately come from Hungarian Goulash and its main ingredient is sweet Hungarian paprika. When my family visited Hungary last year my brother and I tried just about every goulash and paprikash we came across on a menu. They were all little bit different and oh so yummy.

I like to think that the sweet and tangy flavor of Hungarian paprika opens not only the head, but the heart as well. I know that’s sentimental, but I only cook paprikash when I’m feeling sentimental, when I need to pull my family and friends close or when I want to welcome someone special. Mimi’s version of Chicken Paprikash (pictured in this post) closely resembles my own and she’s absolutely right that:

“…even though it [paprikash] doesn’t look like much the best thing about it is the smell that is so warm and fantastic while it’s braising. by the time it’s finished you will think you’re starving because it smells so good.”

What about you? What’s your comfort food? Like a good book, what food do you turn to when you need something extra? Amazon Listmania actually does have a list of Romance novels about food. If you’ve read any from this list, how does food play a role in the story?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels