Macaroni and cheese recession comfort food, courtesy of Chewy Chua on flickr.
This New York Times article is one of many chronicling new consumer spending habits (or lack thereof) in the recession. While I had little sympathy for the people profiled in the piece who can no longer splurge on $2000 handbags lest it seem in poor taste, I was very interested when the article talked about the paring-down that’s taking place in the restaurant industry.
The article quotes Bobby Flay on how some restaurants are moving away from extravagant and highly technical menu items (think the “molecular gastronomists” on Top Chef), and towards traditional comfort foods (think The Joy of Cooking):
Not to take anything away from chefs who specialize in edible paper, pea shoots and fennel pollen,” Mr. Flay said, “but I think classic American dishes with substance are what people will grasp onto.”
The Times suggests that roast chicken may be a popular menu item, given the national feeling that we need to scale back, live simply, and get back to what’s really important in life. And for me, roast chicken definitely sums up the new American ethic: it’s a filling, cost-effective dish that feels homey and comforting.
Since the recession’s hit, I’ve been drawn to filling and economical staples—I’ve been making lots of bean soups, vegetable chiles, and chicken soup with rice. WonkthePlank has been clamoring for me to make more macaroni and cheese, a classic comfort food—although depending on the kind of cheese you buy it’s not exactly economical. Other possible recession menu items I could think of are the return of the casserole, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, tomato soup, and ramen noodles.
This article also made me curious about how the recession has affected your own kitchens. Have you changed your cooking habits? Are there any comfort foods that you think are due for a recession-related comeback? And if you were putting comfort foods on your personal restaurant menu, what would you choose?