I just spent the weekend visiting our daughter, Alyssa, at Penn State University where she is an Engineering student. The trees along the route we're dressed to the nines! Vibrant colors of red and Goldenrod and forest green lined my path. I found myself smiling and daydreaming as I looked out across the sea of changing leaves. The colors of Fall made the drive go quickly but the journey is still a pain! I tried as hard as I could to get our daughter to come home so I could avoid the drive but her exam schedule prevented it. I endure a true pain in the bottom... and I don't just mean this facetiously. I have sciatic nerve issues that cause pain in my left side making sitting excruciating. Somehow the fall colors took me away from the discomfort... between my colorful and lovely ride and knowing at the end of my (three-hour) journey was our beautiful daughter, the driving time flew. I find singing in the car helps to pass the time also. Singing, coupled with knowing that Alyssa's classes began three hours earlier than I initially thought, motivate a person to get to their destination - and quickly too!
Suffice it to say I arrived in time to both have lunch and get to Alyssa's classes on time. I think I sat through math classes but the language the professors were speaking was extremely foreign and the notes Alyssa was taking seemed to be in a strange unknown script. At one point, the professor himself referred to the mysterious calculations he was scribbling across the chalkboard as "a monstrosity!" He then corrected himself and said the problem was 'not a monstrosity per se but something smaller...' the professor recalculated and reexamined the problem and deemed it a "gremlin." I like this professor... He has a sense of humor. Keeping my sense of humor firmly intact would be the only possible way (in the entire known universe) I could get through 7 minutes of any of the math classes Alyssa is currently taking as an Engineering major! Even the professor made mistakes while calculating! Like I said, I like that professor!
So, while preparing our lunch, I noticed the refrigerator had frozen a brand-new container of organic spinach Alyssa had purchased for herself. I looked at it and said, 'The only thing this frozen spinach is good for is if you use it to make Spanikopita.' Spanikopita is one of Alyssa's favorite comfort foods. I asked what she would like me to make for her during my visit. Brightened by the prospect of "Momma Food," Alyssa also asked for Keftedes. Spanikopita and Keftedes are both homey Greek food. The kind of down home food Greek mothers make to just keep about for snacks or easy dinners, so I guess it is appropriate she requested them.
Keftedes are "Greek" meatballs and are composed of ground meat, onions, parsley and salt and pepper. The meatballs are dredged in flour before frying. No recipe required. Spanikopita is a bit more involved because phyllo dough is used and other things go into the bowl along with the spinach like feta, onions, dill, eggs and so on - but I've been making it for so long I go on autopilot and find the procedure of mixing and buttering very satisfying. It's especially satisfying when you know you're bringing someone you love comfort. Each crispy and savory bite she takes of the Spanakopita will remind her of home and know she's loved and valued.
Don't you think that's what comfort food is about? Letting people know they are loved and valued? I do. Each taste of whatever comfort food is to you, transports you to the moment in time or the place that makes you feel loved and valued; in other words, home. Powerful stuff comfort food... it's like I'm leaving a lingering "hug" in the form of food. Like a hug, comfort food makes you feel "safe" and "loved." And so, as I get back in my car, ready to head home, I know the 48 hours of mother- daughter time we spent together will be prolonged with every morsel. There is just three hours between me my kitchen and the making of more edible Food Hugs.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor