An article on breakfast about did me in for reading any more words on what's new, healthy, or chic in the food world. Dismissed out of hand as never appropriate was the classic American morning meal of eggs, bacon, pancakes, coffee. I felt a certain amount of proletarian ire: Perhaps some of us need those kind of calories for our work, or maybe some of us really like that kind of breakfast.
Then, not long after, I found myself alone at the table with a tuna fish sandwich, cherry Kool-Aid, and Oreo cookies. "Would you look at this. Where is the arrugula salad with olive oil?" sniffed the New York Times food section fan inside me. "Comfort food," answered the inner child.
The spectrum of people's food preferences runs from gourmet to ordinary, from high fat to low, from health food to junk. I suspect many of us travel back and forth between the extremes. I also suspect that when life gets tough, we return to foods that are familiar to us.
Earlier this year, a cooking school in Austin, Texas, invited famed Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme to give a demonstration based on his new book about low-fat hot and spicy cooking. But at the end of his presentation, the inquiry that drew loud and instant applause from the crowd of 500 had nothing to do with vegetable-based, low-fat food preparation. Rather it was: "How do I get the coating to stick on my chicken fried steak?"
Obviously, a lot of us want to eat and cook interesting, healthy fare. But we also want to continue the food traditions of our families. We don't want to spend an arm and a leg on exotic ingredients, at least not very often. We want to please our eaters, which may occasionally mean Velveeta cheese, meatloaf, or white bread.