Of Comfort Foods & Cigars…Tis That Season

769.autumnIf you live in an area where the seasons change, then you are experiencing the awesomeness of autumn at this very moment. Here in north Jersey, the weather is cool and crisp, leaves have hit the turf, and football dominates the airwaves. I LOVE smoking a cigar outside this time of year. Staring at the orange, red, and yellow foliage while puffing a fine premium handrolled stogie is so relaxing and something I really look forward to. The Fall season is also an amazing time for great food, especially with the holidays around the corner. But for some reason, maybe because there’s a chill in the air, hot comfort foods are so goddamned enjoyable right about now.

picnic_oven_fried_chickenWhat exactly is the definition of comfort food? Wictionary.org says…

1. Certain foods that people associate with their formative years, or with “home”; frequently simple home-cooked style food, and often the staple of diners and other informal restaurants.

2. Food that one eats to feel comfort or alleviate stress rather than to receive nutrition.

Webster’s Online Dictionary says:

1. Food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.

539983382_26e558631dI think the bottom line is, just like time spent with a good cigar, comfort foods offer a form of unexplainable mental relaxation. When I was a kid, my mom made a macaroni and cheese casserole that was so awesome, (and so fattening) that every time I eat Mac & cheese today, I really do get a sense of nostalgia that comes over me. Then it’s usually followed by a bout of gas that could knock the horn off of a charging rhino, but that happens with just about anything I shove down my pie hole. As mentioned in the above definition, comfort foods aren’t usually the healthiest for the physical body, but much like cigars, they offer heartfelt nutrition for the soul.

Even though we’re dealing with foods that are traditional to the U.S., where you live or your ethnic background does certainly bring about different dishes that are close to the heart. If you live in New England, a clam chowder gives you warmth, but in the southeast, there’s nothing like a basket of crispy fried chicken. If you grew up in an Italian family, then macaroni and meatballs (with gravy, here in Jersey) is your go-to meal. So I made a list of some of my favorites, and did a little internet research as well, of some true comfort foods that we all might agree on, no matter what part of America you’re from. Of course you guys will need to get all-nostalgic and throw in some of your homegrown faves. (WARNING: I put together an offering that would make all of us give Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote a good run for the money.) Hey, there’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s just a bunch of wonderful food that makes you feel oh so good inside.

Some Main dishes…

meatloaf-main_FullMeatloaf – A lot of people rank on the loaf, but to me it’s an amazing standby in the comfort food category. There’s a lot of ways to prepare it: breadcrumbs or onion soup mix, spinach, with tomato sauce, or even bacon wrapped (damn straight.) You can add ground veal, pork, or make a turkey meatloaf. And what better to throw a few hunks on some crusty French or Italian bread for tomorrow’s lunch? I’ll eat the whole damned thing like a bat out of hell!

ovenbakedmacandcheeseMacaroni & Cheese – Again, there’s a million ways to make this American classic, but my daughter does one with cheese soup and crispy baked breadcrumbs on top. It’s 12 million calories and impossible to stop eating. I’ve seen restaurants that offer five cheese casseroles with crumbled bacon, and it even comes with your very own defibrillator.

Touchdown_ChiliChicken Soup – Thick noodles, big chunks of tender chicken breast and fresh veggies in a savory broth. Thank you, grandma!

Chili – Although it’s known as a southwest favorite, a hot bowl of chili definitely soothes the soul. And it’s another dish you can make so many ways and add so many toppings like onion, shredded cheddar, sour cream, and hot sauce. Spicy or mild, it’s a homerun at any party, especially Super Bowl Sunday.

Side Dishes…

potato-salad-sl-262076-lPotato Salad – I freakin’ LOVE traditional tater salad with mayonnaise, onion and celery, and a little pickle, and I especially like it when it’s still a little warm. It can almost work as a side to any meal, and is the staple of the American barbecue! But do me a favor, will ya? Please don’t go sticking weird stuff in there like apples, cranberries, and walnuts. That’s way too much culture for a pungent slob like me.

300_48262Green Bean Casserole – This classic is usually something you only have around the holidays, but that’s what makes it so special. Fresh green beans, mushroom soup, and those crispy fried onion thingies on the top is just so damned special.

Mashed Potatoes -  Fluffy, creamy, buttery and drowned in gravy if you wish. It’s a scoop of heaven on a plate.

corn-on-the-cob-lgCorn on the Cob – I make mine on the grill and the flavor is simply amazing. A little butter and garlic salt and those goddamned cobs don’t stand a chance.


800px-apple_pieWarm Apple Pie – Thick, flakey crust and the smell of warm cinnamon. Being from New Jersey I will NEVER even remotely get the “hunk of cheddar cheese” thing, but add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and even a Bernie Madoff could forget all his worries and cares.

chocolate-chip-cookiesBrownies – I always feel like I’m ten years old when I eat brownies. Yes, I like mine with fudge icing on top, please.

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Fresh from the oven, all gooey, hot, and waiting for that ice-cold glass of moo juice! Yessuh!

491359770_9e1f4accefOther timeless classics… A great comfort food lunch is a hot bowl of cream of tomato soup with a grilled cheese, tomato, and bacon sandwich. You know, if you add bacon to just about anything, it tastes a whole lot better. It just could be the ultimate comfort food enhancer! I think hotdogs on the grill definitely have that nostalgic effect, as does a juicy, beefy cheeseburger. Stuffed cabbage reminds me of being a kid as does a fresh baked, chicken pot pie. And of course, a bowl of rich, sweet, creamy ice cream with your favorite toppings can even make the movie 2012 seem like a Disney flick!

Okay… If you’re not starving by now, please check your pulse because you are no doubt deceased. This is the time of year for good smokes and good foods so let’s hear some of your personal faves, in each of the comforting food categories!

Have a great week, you fat bastid,

Tommy Z.

JR Cigars Blog With the Zman

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