Monday, September 1, 2008

Comfort Food When Comfort Is Needed


It was the Monday night of Labor Day Weekend three years ago when my phone rang and my manager said, "I need you to go to the United Way tomorrow for the big Hurricane Katrina meeting. Do whatever needs to be done." Thus began a two-week period of minimal food and sleep and many, many hours of working with stunned, disoriented, shattered people displaced from their native Louisiana or Alabama and not at all sure what to do next.

There was the man who had his grandmother, and his grandmother's neighbor's children, with him and no way of contacting the children's mother. The 18-year-old who hadn't tracked down his parents but was determined to get his younger brother and sister into school.

And of course there was the man who told me that, every day, he would call every number programmed into his cell phone just to see if anyone answered and was therefore still alive. That morning one of his friends answered and the conversation went like this:

Man: You're alive! [per him, that was the standard greeting at that point]
Friend: Yup. I just can't believe all this. Where are you?
Man: Georgia. Atlanta. You?
Friend: South Carolina. Don't know anybody. You know, until three days ago I hadn't ever left New Orleans. Now I've been on a plane, I'm in South Carolina, and apparently I can swim!

It appears that any people and organizations are much better prepared for this storm than they were for Katrina, and amen for that. I serve on a planning team for disaster planning for special needs populations, and on Friday I was developing a survey to ask people what they would need in an evacuation, how they're notified of emergencies, etc.

Difficult times often call for comfort food, and for some people that's a good roast with carrots and potatoes, for other it's French Silk Pie and for others (me!!!) macaroni and cheese hits the spot (specifically the thigh and hip). In the smooth/creamy mac & cheese family is this:

Cooking Light, 2007

6 ears corn
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon
1 cup chopped leek

1. Cut kernels from ears of corn to measure 3 cups.

2. Using the dull side of a knife blade, scrape milk and remaining pulp from cobs into a bowl. Place 1 1/2 cups kernels, low-fat milk, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and pepper in a food processor; process until smooth, scraping sides.

3. Cook bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crisp, turning once. Remove the bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan; crumble bacon.

4. Add leek to pan, and cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring constantly.

5. Add pureed corn mixture, remaining 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, and corn milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with the crumbled bacon just before serving.

6 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 151(27% from fat); FAT 4.6g (sat 1.7g,mono 1.9g,poly 0.8g); IRON 0.8mg; CHOLESTEROL 9mg; CALCIUM 111mg; CARBOHYDRATE 23.1g; SODIUM 325mg; PROTEIN 7g; FIBER 2.4g

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