Tacos Are a Comfort Food Until They Kill You

Comfort food is called comfort food for a reason: It's comforting.

Which means it's not for being healthy, responsible, or doing those things your doctor said you needed to stop (or start) doing at your age.

It's not a kale smoothie, cucumber salad, or rice cakes with olive hummus.

If you've spent 30 minutes shoveling your neighbor's driveway, and you're cold and your fingers hurt, there's nothing better than a hot bowl of chili to warm you up inside.

When you've had a hard day at work and your boss yelled at you before you left, you just want a big plate of mashed potatoes with a melted butter volcano.

And when the love of your life decides they would rather spend more time with literally anyone else but you, there's nothing better to sob into than a can of chocolate frosting.

Comfort food is not very good for us, but it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to comfort us, not improve us. If we wanted improvement, we'd go for a run. But instead, we'll stay home on the couch where it's comfortable.

See the difference? One is comfortable and feels good, and the other is an activity left over from when we had to escape saber-tooth tigers.

When we feel wiped out and emotionally hollow, we want the things the healthier-than-thou zealots rail against. We don't want to join them for a yoga workout.

After a hard day of work, I want pizza or a hamburger to help me feel better. Some days, I want pizza AND a hamburger. In fact, I want a hamburger that uses two slices of pizza as the bun. And I want chili cheese fries, only instead of chili and nacho cheese, it uses pepperoni and mozzarella. Also, the fries are actually pizza crust.

Yes, I know that's still pizza. I still want it because it's comforting.

You know why? Because no one was ever comforted by a salad.

I just worked 14 hours, my computer is about to die, and there's a rather thick envelope from my credit card company in my mailbox. So, no, Willow Featherwisp, seaweed chips and hummus won't cut it.

I just want something salty or sweet. In fact, according to a new study, more than half of all Americans feel they can change their mood after a bad day with something salty or sweet.

And America is a democracy, which means salty and sweet foods win.

Meal kit company HelloFresh commissioned a recent survey that found that 46% of the people they surveyed want chocolate on a bad day.

Of course, 41% of people want chocolate when they've had a good day too, so never underestimate the healing power of chocolate.

Candy and fast food were tied for second by 36%, and chips came in next with 35%.

This also means that 77% of people want chocolate or candy after a bad day, so I would be happy to help M&Ms develop a comfort food campaign. To start, I need them to send me a 5-pound bag of peanut M&Ms.

Not surprisingly, only 27% of people wanted fresh vegetables on a bad day.

In other news, 27% of people are lying liars who lie.

Also on the survey, the make-feel-good power of tacos!

When it comes to food that can instantly put people in a better mood, tacos are the most popular and beloved — 33 percent called them an instant mood changer, making it the clear winner in the Food Improvement Wars.

(Go away, kale. No one likes you. They only pretended to like you, but they've been seeing tacos behind your back.)

Except tacos weren't a comfort food to one Fresno, California family. In fact, tacos ruined their lives.

According to a recent story in the San Jose Mercury News, Dana Hutchings died in August 2019, after choking on tacos during a taco-eating contest put on by the Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team.

Hastings' son, Marshall, filed the lawsuit this month, blaming the organization that owned the Grizzlies at the time. His lawyer said that Dana was not made aware of the "risks and danger involved in an eating competition."

I didn't realize you had to be warned about the dangers of an eating competition: They're the same risks and dangers our mothers warned us about when we were kids:

"You're going to choke to death if you don't slow down and chew your food," they would tell us. Of course, they also told us that ignoring bullies would make them go away, so I can see why we might ignore a lot of what they said back then.

Regular everyday eating is rather dangerous itself, because we risk choking on a poorly-chewed piece of food. Even breathing has its complications. Anyone who has choked on their own spit can tell you that.

In fact, choking to death happens quite a lot: In 2019, there were 5,228 choking deaths, including Dana Hastings. Tennessee Williams choked to death on a bottle cap in 1963, and baseball player Jimmie Foxx choked to death on a chicken bone in 1967.

So whether you love comfort food, or deny yourself that most basic of joys, just remember to chew your food thoroughly. Because no amount of chocolate or tacos in the world will make your family feel better if you choke to death on your vegan stir fry.

But chocolate tacos. . .? We may be onto something amazing here.

Photo credit: Stina Magnus (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.