What is lurking in your craving for Comfort Food?

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Detail From The Photo “Cookies and Milk” by Paul Johnston

Food is an integral part of our psyches. We consumed countless meals as we formed into the beings we are today and many of the foods we grew up on are now perpetually linked to our sense of self.

There are certain foods that evoke memories from childhood and even when the specific memory isn’t present the emotion surrounding that memory is attached subconsciously to the taste, smell and even just the idea of that food. The label “Comfort Food” is traditionally placed next to dishes like Mac and Cheese or Shepherd’s Pie, because these were items traditionally found on the plates of the typical Canadian, British or American child and therefore had an emotional link to the safety of youth. Each culture in the world has its own comfort foods and each individual will have certain foods that take them to a personal, unique place in their heart.

Take the Poll at the bottom of the page to vote for your favorite Comfort Food

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“Breakfast” by Paul Johnston

For me, one food that has always done this was Fish and Chips. My Mother worked downtown and most Fridays as she returned from work, she would get off the streetcar a few stops early at Broadview and Gerrard Streets to go to Crown Fish and Chips. It was traditional Fish and Chips wrapped in newspaper; the real deal. We unwrapped that newsprint just like Christmas presents, covered everything in malt vinegar and ate right off the paper. Friday Fish and Chips, what Fun! Ever since childhood even the sight of fish and chips on a menu brings me to an wonderful place similar to the emotions that surround the excitement of the beginning of the weekend and of the friendship I felt at home with my Mother. I will always feel that way about Fish and Chips.

Later in life it occurred to me why we had Fish and Chips on Friday. Not for the traditional fish on Fridays reason . It was because Friday was payday. It was the day we could afford Fish and Chips, but it was also the day we could afford to restock the liquor cabinet. My treat was Fish and Chips, my Mom’s treat; she did not have to worry about making dinner or even washing a dish on a whisky night. It’s not simple selfishness, she knew fish and chips brought me joy, but there was a duality to this gift. It also alleviated her guilt and facilitated her evening plans for drinking. It made me realize that the deconstruction of what we perceive as childhood magic often reveals the magicians tricks or at least the realities of adulthood.

Detail from "Spaghetti and Meatballs" by Paul Johnston

Detail from “Spaghetti and Meatballs” by Paul Johnston

In this series I’m attempting to deconstruct some of our most heartfelt mealtime favourites into a more clinical and darkened arena. The dichotomy that exists between these murky, sterile, images and the emotion which surrounds these comfort foods is the place where the viewer has the chance to deconstruct their own personal investment in them. Take an honest moment to understand the relationship you have with these childhood favourites. What memories and emotions do they conjure and why?

Through this process, hopefully, we as adults will appreciate the value of this gift of innocence we were given as children and understand the importance of bestowing this, not only on our children, but on our parents as they age and our family and friends in hard times. It is this comfort of innocence that defines the human condition best. After all we construct an assemblage of brick, mortar and wood to shelter our bodies at the end of our day, but we build a home to shelter our hearts.

"Fish and Chips" by Paul Johnston

“Fish and Chips” by Paul Johnston

And by the way, I still and always will feel safe with the smell of malt vinegar in the air. 

Click to View the Gallery

“Deconstructing Comfort”

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