We need them less then, I suppose.
We all know how powerful food can be.
It entertains and absorbs us; it can even be transcendental and has the power to heal.
We all have memories of emotional boo-boos that were made better with a dish our moms made.
They're called comfort foods for a reason -- they soothe and reassure both palates and souls.
Restaurants are so called because they originally were roadside stops where weary travelers could restore themselves.And think about the variety of concoctions and potions our grandmothers and mothers whipped up for us the day the school bully took your new Frisbee or your pet hamster died. There are thousands. Comfort foods are found all over the world, largely divided by region and ethnicity. Here in the U.S., it's apple pie, macaroni and cheese or roast chicken. Those with Jewish heritage turn to matzo-ball soup and latkes. The French love their jambon buerre -- a ham sandwich with butter, served on a crisp baguette. In Vietnam, it's pho, a rich soup with rice noodles; in India it's dal, a smooth and spicy lentil stew; in Greece, it's souvlaki, skewers of grilled meat or vegetables wrapped in a warm pita. In my house, comfort food was a soup called pastina. Pastina is a word that means tiny pasta, and was also the name of a magical tonic that could practically heal the sick and make the blind see. It was the kind of thing my mom used to have at the ready on the stove most days. I even remember the pan she used -- it was a little, 2-quart stainless-steel Farberware saucepan, with a black Bakelite handle that curled like the top of a violin at the end. There was a hook through the handle for hanging, and it probably cost no more that $3. (It's still in her pantry closet at home where I grew up.) For some reason, she always used the same pot. She never made more than its capacity, as if pastina was too special to make in bigger batches -- almost as if it had to be carefully rationed out to only the most needy. "Mom, I am tired" -- "I'll make you a cup of pastina." "I fell on my skateboard," "I got suspended from school today for pulling Katie's hair again," "Mom, my gloves soaked through from the snow and my hands are cold" -- her reply was always, "I'll make you some pastina." To view Rocco DiSpirito's video take of today's Good Life segment,
Serves 2 2 cups chicken stock
1 cup pastina
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste 1. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium pot. Pour in the pastina, stirring. Add salt to taste. 2. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes at a rapid simmer. Taste for doneness; the pastina should be slightly firm, as it will continue to cook in the hot soup. 3. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with the cheese, parsley, black pepper and red pepper flakes, if desired. Give your children a kiss on the forehead and watch lovingly as they eat it. For more info on Rocco DiSpirito, please visit
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