What gives you comfort?


Photo thanks to Peter DaSilva; taken after the Camp fire in California, 2018.


By Caitlin Kelly

Few things are as comforting to some of us as delicious meals, solo or shared, as Jennifer Finney Boylan writes in The New York Times:


When the last present has been opened, I will sneak into the kitchen and don a ridiculous chef’s toque. There will be scrambled eggs. There will be hash browns; I like to make these from red potatoes, tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and chopped mint. And there will be a plate of smoked maple bacon, Smithfield ham, hot Tuscan sausages.

Because I am from Pennsylvania, not so far from Amish country, there will also be scrapple…

Christmas morning, my family will gather around the breakfast table: Sean, Deedie, Zai and me. We will have eggs and bacon and hash browns and scrapple. And by the grace of God, we will have one another.

Ranger will look at me with his gray dog face. What did I tell you? Remember the good things. Like this.

American food writer Ruth Reichl titled her 2001 book “Comfort Me With Apples.”

In times of stress, fear, grief — or just everyday life with all its various challenges — we need comfort. We need places, physical, spiritual and emotional to help us patch up the bruised bits of our soul, to feel at ease, to feel safe, to feel enclosed and secure.




I’m sure there’s some Neanderthal DNA in each of us, most dominant in the cold, short, windy days of winter, that says HOMECAVENOW! (One of my favorite boyfriends used to say HOMECRASHNOW! and I like his thinking.)

I’m a big fan of comfort and things that comfort us.



I’ve had this little guy for decades — a great travel companion, this portrait taken in Berlin, 2017.


Our apartment isn’t large (one bedroom) but we have lovely throws, in pale gray and soft teal (bought in Paris) we snuggle under on the wide, deep, soft sofa (perfect for napping at seven feet in length), or to slide beneath for an afternoon snooze.

We have many kinds of tea and two teapots and a kettle and real bone china mugs and teacups with saucers with which to enjoy them. Plus a thermos — my favorite thing is to fill it with coffee or tea and get back to bed under the duvet, the most comforting thing ever. Soft, light, warm.




I have no embarrassment about having these guys sitting in an antique toolbox on a bedroom shelf. I love their furry smiling faces, comfort every day.

I loved this piece from The Guardian, in which many adults happily discuss their still-beloved stuffed animals and the tremendous comfort they get from them:


The exhibition Good Grief, Charlie Brown!, on display at Somerset House in London until 3 March 2019, shows that Schulz had a profound understanding of loss, childhood and the human condition. His depiction of the attachment Linus feels for his security blanket touched something in his readers – and in Guardian readers, too. When we asked readers about their favourite earliest possession, we received stories and photographs of teddies and blankets that had been literally loved to bits.

Catherine Jones, 45, from Hull, has Teddy, whom she was given in her first year of primary school. Ian Robertson, 50, from Whistable in Kent, clung to Panda “even after my brother chewed one of his eyes out and spat it from the family Vauxhall Viva as we were heading up the M6”; he now occupies the best chair in his house. Rachel, 45, from Farnham in Surrey, was given Dog after her grandmother died, so he reminds her of precious family ties.



We are, for now, fortunate enough to have some decent retirement savings, which also gives me comfort that I’ll be able to stop working.

Our cars are safe and reliable, comforting knowing we can get where we need to, for work and leisure.

Jose has been a great source of comfort through my new life with DCIS…for some of you, it’s provided by a sibling or child, a loving pet or a community that knows and appreciates you.

It’s tough to soldier on without respite and charm, something soft and warm, delicious and soothing, accepting and nurturing.


What gives you comfort?


12 thoughts on “What gives you comfort?

  1. Several things give me comfort, especially now that my life is much more stressful and I’ve been making war against anxiety since last year. My apartment gives me plenty of comfort. It’s comfy, it’s mine, and I’ve worked hard to keep it and configure it as my own. I also find comfort in other stuff: good music (“All Night Long” by Lionel Richie is my go-to song when I’m feeling anxious); the simple presence of my doll and figurine collection; favorite TV shows, anime and manga; a good hug (which I never get enough of); and cuddling with cats (I hope to have some of my own someday, but I want a bigger place before I do so they have room to spread out. In the meantime, I make do with my mother’s cats).
    Also, these days I find comfort in my car. It’s a testament of how far I’ve come, as well as both a literal vehicle and a metaphorical vehicle of my independence. And as I’ve become more comfortable driving on highways, this has only grown on me. Sure, I don’t ever let my guard down when driving, but I still find comfort behind the wheel.

  2. Jan Jasper

    I get comfort from my sunlight-filled house which I’ve made into a lovely nest (with fireplace, lovely tapestries and prints), in the summer the flowers in my garden, all year round looking out and seeing trees, a few close friends, my sweet rescue dog who gradually becomes more affectionate and trusting of me, knowing I am (so far, knock on wood) healthy, and feeling confident that my mind works well. Oh, and my neighbors – they are kind, and for the most part, politically progressive.

  3. my cozy blankets, soft bed, hot coffee with real cream, reading the newspaper and working on the nyt sunday crossword, listening to music of all kinds depending on my mood, reading, my favorite mug, my children and grands..

  4. First I want to say how much I LOVE your collection of battered stuffed animals. My wife has a couple that have been around quite a bit longer than I have. I got her one that was made by a kid named Jon who was a student in a special ed class where I used to work. I think he’s a cat, but it’s hard to tell. His eyes don’t match, his ears are all wrong and his clothes are nothing short of a piping hot mess. Cathy named him Tom and he lives on her night table next to the lamp. She absolutely loves him and that makes me smile every time I see him.
    Like ksbeth above, I have a favorite mug. It was made at the Dunoon pottery in Scotland, which is where I lived as a kid and the source of many of my most precious memories. It’s sort of a relic of the Scottish independence movement, so it’s decorated with the saltire (Think Scottish flag). I drink several cups of tea from it every day.
    There are several things I like to cook that fall into the category of comfort food. Our Christmas eve dinner this year will consist of macaroni and cheese with langoustines and Kentucky fried chicken, original recipe, of course. The next day will be a co-operative effort between me and my mother in-law. I’m making five spice beef straight from the Yan Can Cook Book. I got the book from Cathy’s Grandmother and, if you drop it on the floor, it opens up right to that page. The one I like the best, though, is one of my own. It’s a little culinary gem I like to call liberty casserole. It’s mashed potatoes, browned hamburger swimming in gravy, seasoned with salt, pepper and minced onion and French cut green beans. You put the potatoes in a bowl, add the green beans and drown the whole thing in gravy. It’s called liberty casserole because of the time shortly after 9/11 when everyone seemed to be mad at the French, so we had “Freedom Fries”. Remember? So, since I was using French cut beans, Liberty casserole just seemed right.
    I love my cats. Cathy and I have had eight since we have been together: Julius, the only one we didn’t name, Weezy, Leopold, Dexter, Lulu, Elmer, Archie and Milton. They’re like my kids but they’re more than that. It’s kind of hard to explain but I’m sure you understand.
    Last but far from least, it’s great to have old friends. I have three who have been with me for over twenty years and they are truly a gift. They have seen me change over the years and have forgiven me for my craziness more times than I could ever have a right to expect. I can open up to them and they will listen, even if they don’t agree with me. I can imagine you becoming one of those people as well. Merry Christmas to me.

    Short question, big answer, must be Kenny. Good one, thanks.

    1. Those animals give me such joy — and apparently I am not alone, as even the uber-hip NYT Magazine ran a story this weekend about why adults love stuffed animals. I didn’t even show them all as another box has Baby Elephant, who was given to me in London after I had my tonsils out — maybe at age five.

      That food all sounds yummy. My comfort food is usually rice pudding,

      Cats. That is a LOT of cats! (we have none.)

      Old friends are a great joy. My oldest and closest friends are in Toronto …I have a few here in NY but my Toronto friends knew me before the age of 30 and before (sigh) having to re-boot my life in NYC in a recession.

  5. We never had more than three cats at any one time, sorry for not making that clearer, it was 3AM. Right now we have Archie and Milton, but I would clean out the cat box five times a day if I could have them all back again.
    I like rice pudding too. We have a store here called World market that sells Ambrosia rice pudding. You don’t need this store, of course, you live in a world market. Lucky you.

    1. I actually loathe food shopping here. I hate enormous grocery stores and all the wasted time it takes to wander through 3000000 aisles of junk. I really miss Canadian small(er) stores and European shopping — indie stores and human relationships.

  6. Strange. I would think NYC would have bodegas, delis, little Korean groceries full of all things eastern so a person could have a European shopping style and make it work. But I might not understand the logistics. Do you have an apartment in Manhattan AND a place in Tarrytown? If you live in Tarrytown, I get it but even then, if you live in Manhattan, well, I don’t like totin’ my weeks groceries from my car to the back door, so you know schlepping that stuff all over town by means of anything short of a stretch limo with a well stocked bar would just be a big pain in the ass. I do have to eat, so I would just have to find a way to bear up under the burden. I really like the Human relationships too. It helps me a lot to have shopped at the same grocery store since it opened in 1997. practically all the employees, with the exception of the newer high school kids, know me, so there’s never the “Here’s your food, now go away” vibe. This conversation is definitely taking the proverbial left turn at Albuquerque. Are you comfortable with that? Oh, look! Back on track, just like that.

    1. We ONLY live in Tarrytown!

      And it’s a 45 minute drive in or a $25 round trip train ride…so we don’t just bop in all the time, hence my shopping frustration! I was very spoiled when I lived in Toronto (without a car) and in Montreal (without a car) as the food quality is SO much better. Our town (and all around us) does have a great Saturday morning farmer’s market when we remember to get there, and it’s a fantastic pleasure.

      Nothing beats Paris (or most European cities) for the most civilized food shopping. We were loaned a flat a block from the Rue Cler in 2014-2015 and it was pure heaven to load up along those blocks with everything and walk a short walk home, laden with goodies.

      NYC does still have some great indie shops, of course — even the Grand Central Market is fantastic (if pricey) so I often stop in there. In Tarrytown we only have zzzzzzzzzz tedious grocery stores and one $$$$$$ gourmet shop, whose owner I love and who (when $$$ is better) we buy from.

      I love cooking. I hate grocery stores. Go figure!

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