In today’s English lesson we explore some everyday English phrases in and around comfort foods. I have a few favourite foods, depending on the situation. So listen to this English audio lesson to help improve your spoken English fluency and find out what type of food I like on a cold rainy day in Britain.
Don’t forget we design this podcast and all of our English audio lessons to help you improve your English in multiple ways. Listening to our lessons will give help you practice listening to native English speakers, it will cover common everyday English vocabulary. Help explain popular English phrases, help with spelling and provide context and examples of how to use English phrases.
We want you to listen to this and all of our lessons multiple times. So you can take advantage of spaced repetition learning without getting bored with what you are listening to.
You will also learn about British culture and what it’s like living in contemporary Britain. Our lessons are just long enough to be meaningful and you can fit them into any spare time you have in your day.
Crumpets Tipple Flavours
Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English.
Do you comfort eat? And what is your choice of food when you do? And why do you choose that food? This is the subject for today’s podcast, which is intended to give you practice material for your English language learning.
Well, first of all some vocabulary. The word ‘comfort’ in English means a number of things. It’s ‘comfort’, C-O-M-F-O-R-T. You might come across the word ‘comfort’ in advertising. If you’re reading about why you should pay extra for a hotel room or for business class air travel, then the details are sure to mention the word ‘comfort’. In this sort of context, ‘comfort’ is the noun that goes with the adjective ‘comfortable’. ‘Are you comfortable?’ is the question that an air steward might ask you if you’re trying to sleep on board a plane and he gives you an extra cushion.
So ‘comfortable’ means settled, you’ve got everything you need, your body is ‘in comfort’. And if you pay extra to ‘travel in comfort’, you would expect someone to bring you drinks, or a particularly comfortable seat. You might talk about a comfortable bed, a comfortable chair or a comfortable pair of shoes. You might pay a lot of money to have a comfortable mattress on your bed. The mattress M-A-T-T-R-E-S-S is the soft, bouncy bit that you lie on. You might hear ‘comfort assured’ – that’s a promise that you’ll be comfortable.
But we use ‘comfort’ in other ways to. If a baby is crying, we might pick the baby up and try to ‘comfort’ the baby. So this means we take care of the baby, we try to soothe the baby, we might try to make the baby feel better and especially, we try to stop him or her crying. We might ‘comfort’ or ‘give comfort to’ a friend, who’s upset, who’s in a bad situation. So there it’s a verb, ‘to comfort someone’ or ‘to give someone comfort’. So when I’m talking about ‘comfort food’, it’s this meaning of comfort – so ‘food which gives us comfort’.
It’s just really hard to commit to clean eating, and then sometimes you don’t want to eat cold salads. Sometimes you want that warm comfort food.
⭐ Ari Lennox, American Musician
We might talk in English about ‘comfort food’ or ‘comfort eating’ – that’s when we’re not eating because we’re hungry, we’re eating to make ourselves feel better. The alcoholic drink ‘Southern Comfort’ is named with ‘comfort’ in this context. I’m not sure it does that for me, but the idea is that you might feel better, if you’ve had a glass or two of Southern Comfort. I think this was Janis Joplin’s tipple! ‘Tipple’, T-I-P-P-L-E means her favourite alcoholic drink, but I think that maybe we’d be talking about excess here, too much Southern Comfort in Janis Joplin’s case! If you’ve not heard of her, then have a listen to her music – it’s good 1960s stuff!
In American films, especially romantic comedies, you might see the heroine, the female lead sitting in bed, with a big tub of ice cream, when her romance is having problems. But comfort eating can be something that’s a big problem for some people. It can be what we call ‘compulsive’, C-O-M-P-U-L-S-I-V-E – that means that you can’t stop it, even if you want to, even when it’s doing you harm. So comfort eating can be a distressing problem for some people.
It’s not the best way to deal with your difficulties. In psychological terms, we might call that Binge Eating Disorder. Sometimes I see people in my practice with this distressing problem. Usually if it’s Binge Eating Disorder, people have particular sweet foods which they use in this way. It is usually sweet food which is problematic. And the positive feeling is very short-lived and it can be a cycle that’s hard to break.
But I’m not really talking about that level of comfort eating here. What I’m talking about here, is what sort of foods you find comforting when you’ve had a bad day. I mean what things do you prefer to eat when you’re ill, not feeling good or you’re tired?
I’ll tell you what those foods are for me in a minute, and a possible theory, an idea of what’s behind it. But first just a reminder about our podcasts. There are two new podcasts each week for you to use to practise your English language learning. But if you like the podcasts, then do you know that you can buy ‘back numbers’?
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Normally, I’m quite adventurous with food – I eat most things and I like trying new things. But I notice that for me, if I’m very tired, or I’m feeling ill, or occasionally I’ve had a day which hasn’t gone very well for some reason and I’m feeling sorry for myself, there are certain foods that I find ‘comforting’. More so than other foods. I notice that I find comfort in food that is pretty much the same now as when I ate it as a child. When I was a child, our family ate a very traditional British diet. Now of course, we eat food from all around the world, as most people in the UK do.
A photograph of a bowl of tomato soup, perfect comfort food on a cold British day.
I talk about this specific topic of food in our Course One, of course. But if I’m feeling ill or I’ve had a bad day, or I’m really tired, the things I like to eat particularly are mashed potato with cheese, casseroles, crumpets, fish fingers or Heinz tomato soup. These are all things which I ate as a child – and they’ve not changed – they taste exactly the same now as they did then. Mashed potato, that’s ‘M-A-S-H-E-D’ from the verb ‘to mash’ – that means potatoes which are boiled in water and crushed up, with butter and cheese, salt and pepper.
A casserole, C-A-S-S-E-R-O-L-E is a dish which contains all kinds of things. You put them in a big pot and cook them inside the oven. Typically it has meat or fish, potatoes and vegetables, all cooked together in a liquid stock for a long time. Crumpets are a lovely thing – they’re C-R-U-M-P-E-T-S and they’re round and bready, with holes in the top. You toast them – and put butter on, which disappears into the holes. Fish fingers, you may be familiar with them – sticks of white fish, covered with orange ‘bread crumbs’, the sort of food which children like to eat. And lastly, Heinz Tomato Soup, which is in a tin and it’s bright orange, sweet tomato soup, exactly the same now, as it was when I was a child.
So my theory is that when we want comfort food, not in an unhealthy way, but just to make us feel better on a bad day, maybe we choose things which we knew as a child, which have comforting memories associated with them? The word nostalgia N-O-S-T-A-L-G-I-A is an interesting one. It’s a noun, and it’s an ‘uncountable noun’ – remember, like custard or traffic – you can’t say ‘a nostalgia’, instead it’s like a substance, like water. Nostalgia.
And there’s an adjective too - ‘nostalgic’, N-O-S-T-A-L-G-I-C. Nostalgia means ‘positive associations with the past’. People might have conversations about what they watched on TV when they were young, what music they listened too, what clothes they wore – and how things were different then. All of that, if it’s positive is nostalgia.
And my theory is that when we choose foods which are comforting, then nostalgia plays a big part in that, even though we’re not always aware of it. Maybe we choose foods which make us feel ‘safe’, which are familiar, which have no uncertainty. Smell as well as taste is very powerful at evoking, bringing up memories and feelings, so foods with positive associations of being cared for, looked after, which made us feel better.
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I notice that the foods that I would class as my comfort foods – they’re not the most exciting flavours, they’re not sophisticated! There are flavours and foods which I’m much more enthusiastic about normally. But my emotional links with certain foods must remind me of times of being well supported and well cared for – and I think that’s what makes me feel better when I eat these foods.
So my question is - do most of us move towards foods which we knew as a child for our ‘comfort food’? Let us know whether you think that’s true.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.