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Shameless Nepotism February 6, 2010

My name is Lauren, and I’m an emotional eater.

Food comforts me.  But doesn’t it comfort everyone?  So, are we all emotional eaters?

I grew up with a family full of foodies, which explains why I turned out the way I did.

My father has a baking business called “Dan’s Homemade.”  He operates out of his home kitchen and bakes just for the fun of it (plus he makes a killer carrot cake).   Maybe he does it because his wife of 25+ years is a sugar junkie?  She would hate that I’m telling the world this because she’s a yoga teacher and is supposed to be “healthy” in every possible way.  But I’ve never seen anyone enjoy candy the way she does.  (Don’t hate me, Nancy)

My mother is completely obsessed with food. I don’t even know where to begin with her.  She’s the one that really taught me how to cook and thoroughly enjoy my food.  But she’s also infamous for chewing chicken bones, and then spitting them out on her plate in a neat pile.  (Don’t hate me, Mom)

But it’s my brother, Drew, who really made food his life.   We were all surprised when he announced that he was going to the Culinary Institute of America.  He was a skinny string bean of a kid, who just didn’t eat like we did.  But his job as a teenage pizza dough twirler at a NYC joint got him hooked.  He started making pizza at home, and then off to CIA.   He then managed to work in some crazy impressive kitchens like La Grenouille and Fleur de Lac in Switzerland.  Needless to say…  we were all thrilled to have a classically trained living-breathing chef in the family.  When we thought it couldn’t get any better, he fell in love with his kitchen-mate at the Four Seasons Hotel in NY.  He and Rosemary married, and their individual careers flourished to great heights including stints at Lespinasse and Le Bernardin.

The culinary couple moved to NJ, had twin daughters, and opened their own catering company and gourmet food store.  The Fruited Plain, located in Pine Brook, has been in business for seven years now and is a complete labor of love.  They pour their heart and souls into their food.  For Christmas this year, I asked for a freezer full of The Fruited Plain, and I got my wish.  It’s really all that I wanted – Portuguese Fish Stew, Escarole White Bean Soup and Osso Buco…yum!  Who needs more “stuff” when you can have the gift of homemade food?

So why am I writing about my family and the Fruited Plain?  Because I am the official PR agent for The Fruited Plain and today I took on the task to write a press release for them.   They have some new and exciting developments that the world needs to know about:  they have a second location, new menus and now offer dinner delivery – which is a pretty big deal for Montville Township, which has been limited to pizza and Chinese.   But in preparing for their press release, I sit and think about comfort food.   Let’s face it, that’s what people want these days.  Americans are stressed with their daily lives and seek the comfort of familiar foods that reminds them of a time when things were simple and easy.  Oh, to be a child again.

Looking at the menus of The Fruited Plain, I realize that comfort food is really what they cook: Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, Mom’s Turkey Meatloaf with Country Gravy, Pasticcio and Pulled Pork Burritos.   Of course “comfort food” means something different for everyone and it’s all rooted in their childhoods.  Rosemary’s comfort food is chicken potpie.  Her mother made it for her birthday every year in the middle of summer.  My father goes for meatloaf.  Nancy tackles a box of chocolate or coconut patties.  My brother and I both have the same answer — our mother’s baked artichokes.  As kids, we used to race to see who could get to the heart first.  We also both love slow roasted dark meat chicken, but unlike Mom, we throw out the bones!

I’m always curious to know what people like to eat.  I think I can get a glimpse into their soul by learning what foods comfort them when they’re cold or sad or stressed.

In my dating escapades, it’s usually a great discussion to have with someone –  “What’s your ultimate comfort food?” – because essentially there’s a story or reason behind their answer.  I remember hearing about Herbal Tea Guy (see Extra Comfy) and why he goes to Shrimp in Lobster Sauce whenever he’s blue.  He told me about his cold and neurotic family environment, but every Sunday night they brought in Chinese food and ate as a family, while pretending to get along.

And as I write this, the smell of warm and spicy chicken curry simmering in my slow cooker fills up every inch of my little studio apartment, and it feels like home.   And suddenly I’m remembering my fraternal grandmother, aka “Grammy” making us a big ol’ meatloaf in this very apartment 25 years ago.  And to our surprise finding a hard-boiled egg in the center.  She did it every time.  It was her signature dish and I loved her for that.  It also explains why my father loves meatloaf!!!

What comfort food will my nieces Jenna and Alena relate to when they’re thirty something?   I look forward to asking them in 25 years.

“Food is the most primitive form of comfort” - Sheilah Graham

The Fruited Plain Fine Foods & Catering
48 Stiles Lane
Pine Brook, NJ 07058

Jim Gabbe February 8th, 2010

dish-nyc is warm, personal, informing and engaging. Different from the other food blogs. She adds a touch of human relationship, throws in some psychology, sprinkles some humor — and there it is! A treat for the single gourmand in NYC — and those, like me, who are not single!
Keep them coming, Lauren. You’re on to something special.

THE FRUITED PLANE/PLAIN……anything BUT plain! Your writing is clear, funny, and really keeps me reading. Not to mention wanting to get in the door for comfort food, preferably with my family!

I love you, Laur!

I second the first ‘comment’! Yes, yes and yes!!!

MGTremblay February 13th, 2010

I LOVE comfort food and I must say your writing fits right up there with the best comfort food there is. Having left the city 8 years ago (yes it has been 8 years!) I cherish every giggle and chuckle your writing brings to me. I feel like we are chatting late night and laughing like we were in our 20′s again. Definitely the best comfort food there is. Can’t wait to tell all my friends on the east coast about Fruited Plain – meatloaf and chicken pot pie? Can’t beat it.

carol dickler February 23rd, 2010

Informative,funny and charming…a pleasure to read. My next NYC trip will include a visit to one of these restaurants.
Great Blog!
Best, Carold

Francesco Tonelli February 27th, 2010

Truly a lovely blog Lauren!
I can’t wait to have a chance to eat at THE FRUITED PLAIN.

John Morrison March 4th, 2010

My favorite comfort food is a hearty ragù or sunday gravy with meatballs over polenta.

It was great seeing you tonight. We had a fantastic time.


Riki September 25th, 2010

Loved the blog Lauren, and love your Dad’s carrot cake too!

Barbara Gabbe-Harris ... also known as "mom" April 22nd, 2011

just re-read this blog after a long while …… so many memories churned up! Love all the family references! Yes,” the apples don’t fall far from the tree” … I am a big time foodie!! LOVE everything about food – love the planning, shopping, cooking, dining and eating of it …. at the present time I am especially loving Vegan Cuisine! So funny reading about me and the pile of chicken bones … a very long time ago! No more animals for me!!! Love my new Vegan delights!

How blessed I am with two wonderful kids … who love the culinary arts like their mom!

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