There are certain meals that we enjoy eating alone. This is not because we don't think anyone else will enjoy them. It is because they evoke a certain memory or feeling that is somehow best savored on our own. Many years ago I worked as an au pair in Brussels. It was a consuming experience. My bedroom was next to a tiny half bathroom off the kitchen. It was essentially a laundry room with a bed in it. There was a bathtub in the center or the room that the washing machine drained into and clotheslines strung across the far wall. I was in charge of a lovely toddler named Roberta who was mostly sweet and good-natured although her temperament was not quite enough to compensate for the fact that I was lucky to get more than an hour to myself on any given day from the time that she woke up until the time she went to bed. While the work was not in any way onerous, the hours were extremely long.
One night the family went out to dinner and I was left on my own for the evening. Although I knew there wasn't much in the fridge for my supper, I still savored the time on my own. As I was living with an Italian family, I knew there was pasta and cheese and olive oil so I would not go hungry. I found an onion and chopped it up as the water was heating. I put the onion in a saute pan with a generous glug of olive oil and set it over low heat while I poked through the refrigerator. I found a tube of anchovy paste and added a good squirt to the onions. I grated some parmesan and dropped my spaghetti into the water. Once the noodles were supple and bouncy I transferred them into the saute pan with the onions. I added some of the cooking water and small pat of butter, and then stirred everything together. I added a healthy sprinkling of cheese and stirred it up again. It was one of the best meals I've ever eaten, salty, savory noodles slicked with butter and oil, gritty with cheese, flecked with tender, sweet onion bits, and eaten in blessed silence. It was a meal to remember.
Over the years I've made small changes. I add garlic when it's available, crushed red pepper for heat, and a good squeeze of lemon juice at the very end to brighten things up. It's still a meal I prefer to eat alone when in need of comfort and coddling. It fills my belly and warms my spirit in ways I cannot explain. It's comfort food just because it makes me feel good.