Most everyone has their favorite comfort foods, the foods they like to enjoy when they are feeling down, lonely, cold, or stressed. Part of being pagan to me is being aware of these things, and their place in my life.
Comfort foods are often picked up / set in childhood. They usually combine familiarity with emotional attachment to the preparation, with a huge helping of yummy on top. Very often they are cold weather foods, but not always. Sometimes they are "You're feeling sick? Let me make you some ___" type of folk remedies (chicken soup is a classic for this.)
Comfort foods help fill an emotional niche in our lives - they help us re-connect with happier memories and feelings from our past. Common American ones I know of are things like mac and cheese, franks and beans, chicken soup, hush puppies, brownies, split pea soup, aroz con leche, etc.
Anyway, here's my recipe for a biiig batch of one of mine:
Split Pea Soup with Ham
8 cups dried split peas
18 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bullion (vegetarian: use vegetable bullion)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 cups sliced carrots (more if you like more carrots)
2 pounds ham, diced (vegetarian: omit this, add more carrots, onions. Don't use TVP or tofu.)
1) Rinse and drain the peas (takes a really big strainer)
2) In at least an 8 quart stock pot (err on the side of bigger), combine rinsed peas, water, and baking soda, and bring to a boil.
3) Skim off the foam into a measuring cup, pouring back the liquid that settles out. Do this until it doesn't foam, just bubbles.
4) Add bullion, garlic, carrots, and ham. Return to a boil.
5) Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for an hour, stirring violently no less than every 5 minutes. (Yes, I said violently, keep it swirling to prevent lumps and scorches, you want the peas to fall apart.)
6) Serve and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers.
We prefer to package it in 16 oz portions. When it cools you can stand a spoon up in it - thin it if that's too thick for you. I don't put celery or celery seed in it - I'm allergic, and so is my mother. The ham we use is the inexpensive canned hams, and if you are really feeling adventurous, substitute Spam for the ham, but cut it up really small so it blends in well.
This batch should serve 12 or so, if you use 16 oz portions. The peas we buy in bulk (25 lb bag bulk), so they cost under $1/lb (find the best prices at a restaurant supply, or an east Indian grocer.) The hams we get for about $5 each (canned), the carrots etc are about $1. So the whole batch runs about $14, which works out to under $1.20 per serving. Each serving is roughly 300 calories, 7 grams of fat.
Think about your favorite comfort foods, and maybe make some for the next circle potluck.