In America, traditional comfort foods include chicken soup, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup, and of course, ice cream (straight from the container). Southerners can’t get enough grits, fried chicken or biscuits and honey.
In Europe, comfort foods range from the universal — pizza, French fries — to more regional-based favorites. Of course, in England your fries will be served with deep-fried codfish, better known as fish and chips. And while waffles and ice cream may be a go-to comfort food in the U.S., in Belgium the topping is more likely to be chocolate, of course.
Residents of the Czech Republic, for instance, will reach for a slice of homemade apple strudel when they’re seeking solace from food. Austrians also favor strudel or the traditional wiener schnitzel, a thin veal cutlet that’s breaded and fried. In Germany, the closest thing to mac and cheese is käsespätzle; yes, it’s made with spätzle, soft, handmade egg noodles often shaped like sparrows. You also can’t go wrong with bratwurst (and a stein of beer to go with it). In Ireland, however, you’ll be reaching for a pint of Guinness. The Polish people can’t get enough pierogi, which are boiled potato or cheese-filled dumplings.
Travel to the Ukraine, and your soup may be served hot or cold — if it’s borscht (beet soup), that is. In Hungary, ask for a bowl of paprika-spiced goulash, a hearty stew of beef, potatoes and vegetables.
The Swiss find comfort in raclette, melted cheese that’s usually scraped off a griddle and often served with potatoes. In Denmark, yes, there are the Danish pastries. But the comfort food of choice is Smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich of dark Danish rye bread, topped with shrimp and egg or cured fish. Swedish meatballs are popular in — you guessed it — Sweden. A blend of beef and pork, these meatballs are typically seasoned with nutmeg and ginger. Cravings in Holland are more basic: They go for Gouda on toast. For an even simpler treat, try Gouda on crackers.
In Greece, Moussaka — a dish of eggplant, potato and ground meat, topped with béchamel sauce — is a must. The French love their charcuterie, croissants, crêpes, pâtés, mousses and soufflés. The Spanish pine for paella, a saffron-infused rice dish made with bits of chicken, vegetables, seafood, or all of the above (accompanied by a pitcher of sangria). And it’s no surprise that in Italy a common comfort food is pasta. Doughy gnocchi are particularly popular as well.