What’s Your Recession Meal?

baked macaroni with lotsa cheese
Macaroni and cheese recession comfort food, courtesy of Chewy Chua on flickr.

This New York Times article is one of many chronicling new consumer spending habits (or lack thereof) in the recession. While I had little sympathy for the people profiled in the piece who can no longer splurge on $2000 handbags lest it seem in poor taste, I was very interested when the article talked about the paring-down that’s taking place in the restaurant industry.

The article quotes Bobby Flay on how some restaurants are moving away from extravagant and highly technical menu items (think the “molecular gastronomists” on Top Chef), and towards traditional comfort foods (think The Joy of Cooking):

Not to take anything away from chefs who specialize in edible paper, pea shoots and fennel pollen,” Mr. Flay said, “but I think classic American dishes with substance are what people will grasp onto.”

The Times suggests that roast chicken may be a popular menu item, given the national feeling that we need to scale back, live simply, and get back to what’s really important in life. And for me, roast chicken definitely sums up the new American ethic: it’s a filling, cost-effective dish that feels homey and comforting.

Since the recession’s hit, I’ve been drawn to filling and economical staples—I’ve been making lots of bean soups, vegetable chiles, and chicken soup with rice. WonkthePlank has been clamoring for me to make more macaroni and cheese, a classic comfort food—although depending on the kind of cheese you buy it’s not exactly economical. Other possible recession menu items I could think of are the return of the casserole, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, tomato soup, and ramen noodles. 

This article also made me curious about how the recession has affected your own kitchens. Have you changed your cooking habits? Are there any comfort foods that you think are due for a recession-related comeback? And if you were putting comfort foods on your personal restaurant menu, what would you choose?



  1. Uncle Mike said

    When I think of recession meals, I think of soups. I’m especially fond of a hearty navy bean, a rich lentil, or a good old fashioned vegetable soup. Served up with a hearty multigrain bread and perhaps a side salad, you have a complete meal.

    Of course, in college I had a roommate who had the ultimate cheap meal – a baked potato stuffed with brown rice and surplus cheese from the food bank. He was a big fella, and one of these would keep him going for a full day. Not recommended for a carbohydrate intolerant, however.

  2. Rebecca said

    Hands down my cheap comfort food is the chicken and rice casserole. I make it despite the economic conditions because it reminds me of home.

    3 lbs or so chicken parts. Mix of white meat and dark meat is best
    1 cup of rice
    2 cans of condensed cream of mushroom/ chicken/ celery soup
    2 cans of water
    1 package of lipton dry onion soup mix

    Put the rice in the bottom of a casserole baking dish. Spread the chicken over it. Sprinkle the envelope of dry soup over the chicken. pour the cream of soups mixed with water over everything. Bake covered at 400 degrees for an hour. Uncover and bake at 3:50 for half an hour or until done. stir the rice a few times during cooking to make sure it all gets cooked.

  3. Nonna said

    I am a big fan of the potato–recession or no recession. Baked with butter. Mmmmmmmmm…
    Something I am NOT a fan of is SPAM. I am listening to a radio segment discussing how people are buying more SPAM right now. They’re playing a song about SPAM right now…Ahhhhh! Apparently, there is even a recipe for SPAM muffins. Disturbing.

  4. moderndomestic said

    Nonna–I saw those articles about spam too! I’ve actually never had spam and I really don’t want to. I mean, I’d rather go vegetarian than eat canned meats. Ugh. Why, WHY would you put spam in a muffin? WHY?

  5. […] Grant Achatz, a leading chef and Molecular Gastronomist (a style of cooking that, apparently, is going out of style in the recession). There’s some requisite fawning over Grant, although I think having a molecular gastronomist […]

  6. […] I love the debates that you’ve brought to this little corner of the internet – from what to cook in the recession, to who should have won Top Chef, to what a real buttercream frosting should taste like. If you […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: