Comfort Food (and other ramblings)

As I write this post tonight, it is a stormy mess outside in Western Kansas.  Thinking about it, this sort of represents my day.  I work in what I consider a fairly high-stress environment, and sometimes the stress almost gets to be too much, and the littlest things can put a person in a (to put it delicately) “sour” mood.  This morning, that person was me.  However, always trying to be the professional and never show my irritations and frustrations (at least to those who are causing those feelings!), I worked on a customer’s laptop through the morning…  And then, an epiphany!  It was time for lunch.

Lunch…  An epiphany??  You betcha!  (Those who know me well will know this is not outside the realm of everyday reality.)  My coworker/best friend and I often go to lunch together, but since she was leaving early from work today, we decided to pick up some Mexican food from Tacos El Torito, a taco wagon/food truck not far from our office.

Once we picked up our lunches, we headed back to our desks for a quick lunch.  One of my other, more colorful and bardish (is that a word?  It is now.) coworkers starting going on and on about what I had ordered, how much he liked that particular item, and his eagerness to hear how it was.  I ordered a gringa, which is basically a quesadilla of sorts – a grilled tortilla with pork, cheese and onions.  I put some delicious, mild salsa verde (green salsa) over the top and my, oh my, I was in foodie heaven.  The ooey-gooey cheese, the partially-hardened tortilla and the tender pork made for a truly delicious feast, which totally turned my morning around.  Honestly!  It was so moving to the bard coworker that he decided to get a gringa for himself, and I begged him to bring me back a horchata (rice water spiced with cinnamon and other yummies).  As if that wasn’t enough, my “neighbor” Russ’s wife baked a Coca-Cola Cake with homemade chocolate icing, showing that sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic, moist sheet cake.  I wish I had taken pictures of my meal today, but it was so tantalizing I didn’t hesitate before digging in!

It could be a sign of a problem that I get so excited and that my mood changes so drastically with the right foods.  Regardless, after thinking about it this evening after work, I realized that, as a citizen of an actually fairly urban and diverse city, “comfort food” has assumed a new dynamic in our city of ~30,000.  With the various industries and jobs we have here, we (well, some of us, anyway) have welcomed a variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Thanks to them, we have some of the best Asian and Mexican food I’ve ever tasted.  Dodge City doesn’t have a decent steakhouse or BBQ joint (sorry to those of you who think we do), but we have amazing taco wagons and hole-in-the-wall, wow-that-was-unexpected restaurants.

Now, I should interject here – I often complain about the dining options in this town.  It seems that even when we do get a promising new restaurant in town, they are rarely consistent and end up leaving shortly thereafter.  We don’t have much in the way of large chain restaurants; seemingly, we can only attract fat food restaurants (no typo there).  However, when I realize how truly blessed we are to enjoy the new “American foods” – Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese and other ethnic offerings – I see some hope, a light at the end of a sometimes very desolate tunnel.

Back on track…  Comfort food…  It means many things to different people.  I used to think my comfort food was mac and cheese, the staple childhood favorite for millions of children in this country (although my “epiphany” came in my teenage years).  And, when done right (read: with bacon), it can put you at that place.  But with so many ethnic foods done right in this little town, it’s hard to ignore that those cravings are indeed answers, answers to emotions and feelings, and answers that satisfy memories and moments of reminiscence.  We often associate food and drink with highlights and downturns, celebrations and friendships, and with coming back from the edge of illness of both the physical and mental varieties.  It’s no surprise that with these strong connections comes sometimes-scary risks, but that’s another post for another time that I’ll likely never write.

But, today, I have a question for you as my rambling starts to get boring even to me…  What is your true comfort food?  Please share in the comment section below!

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