The Comfort of Food

Posted 24th of April 2024 by Bay Whitaker

The Comfort of Food


These cold early spring days, I've been craving mashed potato!  I’m reminded of the important comforting properties of food, often dishes we associate with childhood.

I mentioned my mashed potato cravings to our colleague Ellie Polllard who knew just what I meant.  She said, her special favourite is home made Shepherd’s Pie with HP sauce.

Receiving nourishment is among the very first sources of comfort that we learn to accept, right from birth.  When we are fed babymilk by our care givers, we are usually being held by them.  And – if the feeding is going well – we literally HAVE to stop crying in order to take that nourishment.  As time goes on, most families and cultures have their own favourite comfort foods.  There are often easy things to eat and digest.  The kinds of foods that children will eat without being picky.  The kinds of foods we can still eat even when we are a bit poorly, or in an upset state of mind.

Reflecting on all this with colleagues here at Sheffield Central Counselling, here are a few of our best and favourite comfort foods:


The top of the list for our counsellors were dumplings, with both Karen Swarbrick and Diana Gibson naming stew and dumplings as one of their preferred comfort foods.  Often there are cosy memories associated with these dishes.  Karen says:   “My memories are cold winter nights and coming in to the smell of the stew. It was so yummy and comforting. Often make it myself now but my hubby does it too and I remember my childhood every time I come home and can smell it.”

Dumplings also feature in Judith Caul’s example - her mum's chicken soup and dumplings.  She describes it as being “made with love. The ultimate comfort food!”


Comfort food doesn’t have to be a home cooked meal, it can be something quick and convenient, like this classic, described by Kate Uwins.  She says: “One of my fondest food memories is coming home from playgroup and my mum making me and her fish finger sandwiches with brown bread and ketchup. My sisters were at school and my dad at work and it felt like such precious time to have just me and my mum…. Now I really want a fish finger sandwich!”

Another convenient quick meal is Baked Beans on Toast, which Bay Whitaker remembers as the perfect end to a long journey home.  “We always used to have beans on toast when we got home from holiday, and a mug of tea!  Familiar, reassuring stuff – and you never get decent tea on holiday, so it made it feel good to be back home.”


This is another favourite with most kids, and Gill Wier remembers that her grandma’s recipe made it extra special, because she mixed an egg into the cheese sauce.  Cheesy treats are also popular with marathon runner Alistair Thain who says: “Whenever I am out for a long run or a hike all my brain can think about is food. Normally it settles on nachos or some other finger food. There's nothing quite like coming in exhausted, having a wash, and sitting down I'm your PJ's nibbling away ok something cheesy and watching some telly”

Some comfort foods are more unusual, but equally special. 

Laurence Keith remembered having an Indian takeaway with his family as a special treat from time to time.  He says “We'd have it 2 or 3 times a year and it was the best meal! It felt extravagant and everyone was there and happy.”

Sarah Saatzer writes: “How to choose a favourite? When my mum made stuffed pancakes it was always a special treat! It would be a time we’d all be there as a family and knowing she had made an extra special effort as it was a big faff and she always said she didn’t like cooking! We so enjoyed that meal. Considering that I often look back and think she did often show her love through cooking cause she didn’t particularly like it”

Nicola Harpin: “My favourite 'treat/comfort/celebration food is Iranian bean and noodle stew that my husband makes. It's just delicious and always made with love. My sons adore it as much as my husband and I do.”

Returning to comfort foods is a brilliant way to practice self-care, not just when we are tired or ill, but also when we are feeling low and depressed or anxious.   Taking a bit of time to prepare something lovingly is a great way to show ourselves (and our loved ones) a little TLC.



Book an appointment

I’d like to book some counselling:

Show calendars
You can look through various counsellors calendars to find a date and time that works for you.
Next few days
We will suggest some options for a variety of counsellors that are available as soon as possible.

Request a callback