Comfort Food means different things to different people, for some it’s sweet things like chocolate and ice cream, for others stodgy pies and stews, but to me it means the rubbish I ate as a kid like sausage sandwiches covered in HP Sauce, double fried eggs and chips, beans on toast, or the simple yumminess of a chocolate Digestive biscuit dunked in a mug of hot tea. The pleasure of Comfort Food is heightened if it’s something unhealthy that you feel a little guilty and self-indulgent about eating (greasy and fatty helps for me) but, like Proust’s Madeleine, it evokes warm and happy memories of the past (what we Brits call “Nursery Food”) that your taste buds can make real in a way your brain can’t.
There’s also such a thing as Comfort Music (there is, I invented it the other week), the records you turn to — and turn up loud — when you fancy a bit of an indulgent wallow that are either soft and gooey or excessively fatty in some way. It helps if they aren’t “good” for you either, Al Green or Marvin Gaye might be very warm and comforting but they’re too “healthy” to be proper Comfort Music, too hip and acceptably cool to make you feel ever so slightly bad the way you do when you tell yourself “I really shouldn’t have eaten that whole tub of ice cream.”
For example, there’s “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty, a big stodgy slice of soft rock made by an old folky with a beard in 1978 when there were far more cutting-edge and radical things happening elsewhere. I should have hated it (Noel Edmonds liked it!) but I didn’t, because how could you not want to wallow in that orgasmic saxophone? The record manages to be both warm and cozy and excessively, epically fatty at the same time; the quiet bits evoke the lovely feeling of cold fingers wrapping around a mug of hot tea on a chilly London night, then the saxophone bursts in and it’s like biting into that wonderful sausage sandwich and feeling the grease and HP sauce combining to drown your taste buds in a wave of sense memory.
There are worse indulgences than this (which I will probably post at some point) but not many as wallow-worthy as this, especially in this 6-minute version which makes me want to loosen my belt and have a nap when it’s over.
Download: Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty (mp3)