April is here and spring is in its full swing here in Athens. The sun is shinning, interrupted by days of rain and the first strawberries appear in the farmers markets.

I spent a week at home, down with flu. I must say I do enjoy the occasional “pause” in life, where all one has to do (or can do) is sit on the couch, sip hot tea and read magazines and books with the TV on.

With my flu in full swing I wanted to eat something comforting. The first day I simply had noodles in chicken broth (I was too exhausted to cook something other than boiled water). The second day I prepared a thai green curry with prawns but I wasn’t satisfied. The next day I tried a proper chicken soup which helped a bit more in bringing me comfort (medication had also started to kick in)!

But that got me thinking: What is my real comfort food? What is the food I turn into when I am ill or heartbroken? I always assumed it was spaghetti al amatriciana (tomatoes, bacon, onions and mozzarella cheese in my version), which is one of the first dishes I learned how to cook, but I am not so sure anymore.

They say that what we perceive as comfort food is often associated with good memories of the past, especially those that bring us back to our childhood. Maybe something my mother used to cook for my sister and I when we were ill? But the truth is both sister Ei and I were quite healthy as kids so I don’t really have many memoires of sick days at home. I do have memories of our birthdays when we could choose whatever dessert/cake we wanted and mama K would prepare it for us – meringue with chantilly cream and strawberries was the one I always chose while sister Ei preferred profiterole.

After a quick call to sister Ei, I confirm that her choice of comfort food would be french fries…but I cannot really relate to that. Maybe there is not one comfort food we come back to or maybe my head is too fuzzy to think…But as I am writing, I have images of a sweet, creamy and comforting pumpkin/butternut squash soup…

A few weeks later I am at Starbucks, with a pile of cooking magazines and a hot hazelnut latte. I open Gastronomica and find a poem by Ellen Birkett Morris. I start reading it and I am speechless. How can a few lines on measurements have such an effect on me? As I finish her poem my eyes are all watery. And suddenly I know: My comfort food is not the tasty pumpkin soup I so much love; it is not the warm stew I make on cold winter nights, neither my all time favourite pasta amatriciana. Comfort food is and always will be mama K’s food. It is her food that sometimes lacks salt, is too dry or too simple for my liking that warms my heart like a woollen blanket. It is her love that transforms even the simplest ingredients, like her heavenly oven baked aubergine with tomato and cheese.

Home cooked food is the epitome of parents’ love for their children and although many times I took it for granted or complained about a tasteless lentil soup, I am grateful that I grew up in a house where warm food was always there. And even if I prefer my lentil soup to hers, I still long for the evenings that I will sit on our old couch, warm bowl of soup on my hands, eating and talking to my mother about nothing and everything.