The stay-at-home concept was dubbed "cocooning" (Doyle calls it ''nesting") by trend spotter Faith Popcorn. Comfort foods are defined by Holly Garrison, author of "Comfort Food" (Donald I. Fine, $16.95), as ''reminiscent of childhood, adolescence, less complicated times and 'Mommy!' " Thus, classic comfort foods are dishes such as mashed potatoes, Welsh rarebit and pot roast.
Garrison says comfort food and cocooning go hand in hand.
"People are looking for reassurance. It's a very scary world out there," she says.
To recover from the big, bad outside world, Garrison "can't imagine anything better than settling down in front of the television with a plate of cold fried chicken, an old movie and maybe a little fudge for later. That would be heaven." She also notes that "people have had it up to here with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes."
Fast-laners may not have given up pesto or traded in the BMW for a Ford Country Squire, but at least they've installed a car seat for the baby. They've also added a lot of equipment to their houses so that retrenching in their abode isn't exactly the adult version of going to your room.
According to Paul Verden, associate professor of sociology at Santa Clara University, "The home was previously thought of as secure but dull. Now people can broaden their experiences without leaving home by utilizing all the creature comforts that used to be available only outside the home."
Though Verden describes comfort food as possessing "sensate" qualities (that is, sense-satisfying), it isn't exactly the kind of food that's going to endear you to your cardiologist - or your interior decorator.
"Comfort foods are really fatty and not very dashing - usually beige, brown and white," said Garrison, who said the essential quality of comfort food is that "it makes you feel good when you swallow it."
Since the nature of comfort food is nostalgia, if not a regression to childhood, one wonders what the comfort food of the Pepsi generation will be.
"Who knows?" Garrison said, "it might be McDonald's."
Before spaghetti and noodles became pasta, there was macaroni and cheese. As soothing as former President Reagan's avuncular voice on radio, macaroni and cheese comforts like no other food. Here is Reagan's recipe for macaroni and cheese, from "The White House Family Cookbook" by Henry Haller (Random House). Use elbow macaroni or a similar short "pasta" for your noodle.
RONALD REAGAN'S MACARONI AND CHEESE
1/2 pound macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 large egg, beaten
3 cups (12 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of paprika
Add macaroni to 2 quarts of boiling salted water and cook for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart casserole.
Drain cooked macaroni well in a colander; transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in the 1 tablespoon butter and beaten egg. Add 2 1/2 cups of the grated cheese. In a small bowl, combine milk with salt, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon macaroni-and-cheese mixture into prepared casserole. Pour milk mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining half-cup of grated cheese. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake on middle rack at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until macaroni is firm to the touch and the top is crusty and browned. Serve at once. Makes four servings as an entree, six to eight as a side dish.
Holly Garrison said fried chicken, in addition to being one of the most popular comfort foods, is also one of the most controversial. Her grandmother, like many others, fried the chicken in lard, about as repugnant to most people these days as Agent Orange. She suggests solid white vegetable shortening as an alternative. If you don't have a large 12-inch skillet like Grandma's, try two 10-inch skillets simultaneously.
CRISP FRIED CHICKEN
1 broiler-fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces (the back broken in half, should be fried, too, because it makes great "picking" for those who enjoy the crispy part as much as the meat)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup solid white vegetable shortening, if using one large skillet, and about 1 1/2 cups shortening if using two smaller skillets
Rinse chicken pieces and place in a colander to drain thoroughly. However, the chicken should not be so dry that the seasonings and flour will not stick to it.
Sprinkle chicken rather liberally with salt and pepper, especially pepper. Place flour on a large piece of waxed paper and dredge chicken pieces, one by one, placing them on a rack.
Melt shortening in a heavy, 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. The fat should be at least 1/4 inch deep. When it is very hot, add the chicken pieces (the oil should really sizzle when the chicken is added), without crowding them, skin side down. It's best to start with the dark-meat pieces because they will take longer to fry.
Fry chicken pieces until golden brown, turning occasionally. It should take about 6 to 7 minutes to brown each side, so if the pieces brown too quickly or too slowly, adjust the heat down or up accordingly. When both sides are appetizingly colored, partly cover the skillet to allow the steam to escape and the chicken to finish cooking. Continue to cook, turning the pieces three or four times, for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the piece and whether the meat is white or dark.
As the chicken pieces finish, drain them on paper towels and place on a platter. Put the platter in a 200-degree oven, where the fried chicken will keep very nicely until you are ready to serve it. Makes four servings.
Garrison calls chocolate "the quintessential feel-good food." And what could be more comforting than the uncomplicated days of the Eisenhower presidency?
MAMIE EISENHOWER'S MILLION-DOLLAR FUDGE
2 cups sugar
1 (5.3-ounce) can evaporated milk (not condensed)
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces (1 cup)
6 ounces (from 2 4-ounce bars) sweet baking chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 (7 1/2-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
1 cup coarsely broken walnuts
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in a heavy, 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add both kinds of chocolate, marshmallow cream and nuts. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is a uniform color. Scrape into prepared pan. Cut cooled fudge into squares. Makes about 2 1/2 pounds of inch-high fudge.
You can use fresh corn for the following recipe, but it is infinitely easier with canned cream-style corn. Most canned cream-style is sweet enough to make the addition of sugar unnecessary.
2 (17-ounce) cans cream-style corn
2 eggs beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine corn, butter, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and sugar, if desired, in a larger bowl and mix thoroughly. Turn corn mixture into a prepared casserole. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until set in the center and crust forms around the edge. Makes six servings.