Living

Comfort in Soup and Sameness in an Unsettling World

I like to think of myself as a minor adventurer. You won’t see me signing up to climb Kilimanjaro, but I’ll try something new (and mainly safe) now and again, explore new places, and enjoy meeting new people. But when I feel as though my world has been upended, or I simply turn on the news, sometimes finding pleasure in normalcy and the mundane is necessary. These rituals, habits and favorites are sources of comfort.

My dog Izzy rests his chin on my afghan-covered lap. We are each other's source of comfort.

Sometimes I want to visit the same coffee shop over and over again, order the same breakfast burrito and almond milk latte, and work on this blog. Other times I want to make the same soup* recipe I’ve made a couple dozen times, knowing it’s easy, will come out just right, and will fortify me, even if I end up eating it four days in a row (I’m single and don’t like freezing things. What do you want from me?).

On Fridays, it means making a mug of tea or decaf and settling in with the afghan my mom crocheted for a new episode of “The Great British Baking Show,” or perhaps the other end of the spectrum, a predictably dark Scandinavian murder mystery. It means tuning in every Monday and Thursday to hear Alison Rosen‘s familiar voice on her podcast.

Seeking new additions to sameness

However, there are occasions when I look for new versions of what comforts me to add to my soothing repertoire. A tangent from when I know I love, to what might be other sources of comfort. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes I wish I’d stayed with what I already know works for me. Other times, it’s exposed me to more of what I love.

Spotify has worked in this way (without any risk). I’ve repeatedly discovered music I like through its Deep Dark Indie playlist, which gets updated regularly. Netflix’s recommendations work similarly (although not as reliably).

What music, TV show, book or movie have you discovered via a similar tangent?

When combining known sources of comfort add up to a new pleasure

In an effort to use up some items in my fridge and pantry and make something hearty, I combined a few foods I find comforting and ended up with a dish that was better than the sum of its parts. After turning on the oven to preheat, I sautéed some mirepoix and added Trader Joe’s steamed lentils. I dumped that mixture into a square Pyrex dish. On top of that, I slathered the contents of an about-to-expire can of pureed butternut squash. Then I used the remainder of a bag of mixed shredded cheese to top it off, and stuck the whole thing under the broiler. It’s like a veggie shepherd’s pie, topped with the perfect layer of bubbly cheese.

Have you ever done this? Created a new dish using things you know you already enjoy? I plan to do this more often, in an effort to reduce waste and increase comfort.

Scents bringing comfort and joy

I’ve always found comfort in scent. As the sense of smell is the one most closely tied to memory, when I smell certain perfumes, I’m reminded of times or places, either real or imagined. After a ridiculously hot October week in LA, the temperatures have dropped into the comfortable 70s (and to the 40s overnight; my heater even kicked on). I felt inspired to pull out my winter scents. I realize how ridiculous this will sound to those of you in cooler climates, but with those scents come associations with the comforts of late fall and winter, when I use my afghans to keep me cozy in my uninsulated house.

For many years, I went toward spicy, warm, Oriental scents almost out of habit (or as a result of marketing), as these are the types of scents usually associated with the cooler seasons. Last year I sniffed Jo Malone’s limited edition winter scent, White Moss & Snowdrop, and instantly fell in love. Yes, it has a touch of amber and cardamom, but those are not the notes I detect immediately. Instead it envelops me in a sensory breeze in the sparkly, snowy woods. I spritzed it on today and smiled.

I’d love to know what sources of comfort have led to new joys for you. Comment below and tell me about them!

*I substitute Trader Joe’s sweet Italian chicken sausage for the chorizo and it’s still great. This recipe is foolproof.

Robyn Kern is the Tangentier. A long-time writer based in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting and an interest in mindfulness, many tangents led her here: a place where people can come to find and share inspiration, dwell in each others' passions, and learn how to surround themselves with what they love on the daily.

2 Comments

  • Wendy Dutwin

    Love your posts, Miss Robyn! I don’t have Spotify, but Apple Music does something similar which I love. It does a New Music Mix every Friday and a Chill Mix every Sunday. I find old comforts and new likes in those mixes all the time!

    Your Friday nights sound lovely and I like the rituals of comfort you bring to them. I think I may try to do something like that here in Paris on Sunday nights moving forward!

    Miss you!! xx

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