Catherine DonnellyCongratulations to Catherine Donnelly for being a Runner-Up for the November 2020 Barefoot Writing Challenge!

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

What is your favorite comfort food, and when do you tend to reach for it?

Catherine told a touching story about how food can nourish both your body and heart. Enjoy her winning submission:

Comfort from the Past

My lips closed over the thin wheat cracker nearly obscured by the generous glob of my favorite homemade dip. Gooey, smooth, rich… I quickly grabbed another cracker and, using it as a scoop, thrust another bite of the delicious French onion–flavored dip into my waiting mouth before the last bite was even finished. As I savored the taste and the mix of textures, my mind wandered to a day when this very delicacy filled not just my stomach, but my heart as well, with the sense of being truly loved and cared for. 

My mind went first to the day after Super Bowl Sunday, a bleak day when it felt as if the sun would never truly shine again. I was six months pregnant with baby number seven, a little girl, and our lives had been shattered the night before. My hardworking husband had come home from a Super Bowl party and sat down to relive his favorite scenes from the day’s game: the commercials! In the midst of commercials, pie, and children on his lap, his heart suddenly gave way to a permanent slumber. He was not revivable. When I called my closest friend and college roommate, she assured me that she would be on the next flight she could book.

I was in a perpetual fog, still unbelieving and yet trying to put one foot in front of the other. So much pain. So many questions. So many decisions to make. Wednesday evening, Laura walked through the living room door. We hugged. We cried. And then she reached into her bag and pulled out a box of Wheat Thins and a package of onion soup mix. “Do you have sour cream?” she asked, her coat not even hung up yet.

“Of course we do,” I replied, surprised.

She headed straight for my kitchen and, after tossing her jacket onto the back of a chair, found a bowl and mixed up a giant batch of my favorite college study snack. “I know you’re probably trying to eat healthy right now,” she said, gesturing to my burgeoning pregnant belly, “but I figured this might be a good time for your favorite comfort food.” I smiled and cried some more and then sat down and ate at least half of the delicious snack, suddenly overwhelmed with the sense of being cared for even amid my tremendous pain and grief. 

Now, on the rare occasion when I’m up way past my bedtime working on a deadline, and I do indulge in this comfort from my past, it always floods my heart with the remembrance of that nourishing feeling of being truly known and genuinely loved.