Was home a place of solace and comfort? Do thoughts of home comfort us now? This is a state to which we aspire.
For some of us, the answer to these questions is yes. Like John Denver, I am a country boy, at least by background, having grown up on a dairy farm in Michigan, a mile from Saginaw Bay, the son of two of the sincerest people I have ever met. John Denver’s country music album “Back Home Again” captures that spirit, especially for someone like me who grew up in the country. Its images are so powerful that I chose my son’s name as a reflection of the experience I had growing up, and my wish for my son to have memories like that. The night Matthew was born, I told my parents, who were staying with us, why we had chosen that name; I never saw such a look in their eyes as I saw that night.
That joy has returned to me as a parent. Recently, when our daughter Kati was preparing for a trip back to Michigan – a place she only visited on holidays – she posted John Denver’s “Country Roads” on her Facebook page. (A memory of returning home one Thanksgiving with that song on the car radio remains vivid today. It was playing just as I approached the dirt road where my parents’ home was. Crops had been harvested from the fields, and there stood our house, just like always.) When Kati was in eighth grade, she wrote an essay as a school assignment. Capturing the spirit of family and home, it is good enough to reproduce in full in the fiction section today. Like my homage to my parents, her essay told me that I “done good.”
Not everyone is as lucky as I was. But then, we can choose what to make of our past. My hope for everyone is that you will know the sense of homely comfort I have known.
How people create their home environments - how we decorate our homes and how we eat - is a living narrative about the comforts of home.
- Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House (Scribner, 1999).
- Eliot Coleman, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long (Chelsea Green, 1999).
- James Oseland, Saveur: The New Comfort Food - Home Cooking from Around the World (Chronicle Books, 2011).
- Julia della Croce, Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul (Kyle Books, 2010).
- Jean-Georges Vongericthten, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes (Clarkson Potter, 2011).
- Poopa Dweck, Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews (Ecco, 2007).
- Joseph E. Dabney, Smokehouse Ham, Spoonbread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking (Cumberland House, 2010).
- Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China (Artisan, 2008).
- Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Throughout the Great Subcontinent (Artisan, 2005).
- Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia (Artisan, 2000).
- Bill Buford, Dirt: Adventures in Lyon As a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking (Knopf, 2020).
- Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses), My Hills of Home (1941)
- James Tissot, Return of the Prodigal Son (1862)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
The soothing sounds of the African stringed instrument, the kora, meld with Djeli Moussa Diawara’s plaintive tenor to evoke gentle images of Africa
From the dark side:
- The piano pieces that comprise Michael Finnissy’s English Country-Tunes (1977) are not the idyllic works the title suggests. On the contrary, Finnissy draws his title from the first syllable of the word “country,” as it is pronounced. The work reflects the composer’s ambivalence toward his native England, particularly its attitudes toward sexuality.
Film and Stage
- I Remember Mama, “Kathryn Forbes' tender memories of a childhood in San Francisco and of her wonderful ex-Norwegian grandma”
- Dana Czapnik, The Falconer: A Novel (Atria Books, 2019): “The basketball grows into a metaphor for the universe: ‘I bounce the world hard on the blacktop, and it comes back into my hand covered with a fine layer of New York City diamond dust.’ The entire novel is indeed cloaked in just such a glimmering film, and Lucy’s love-hate relationship with her roiling city reflects her changeable hopes for herself and others. ‘I guess New York is like that, in that what you mistake it for matters as much as what it actually is.’”