Editor's Note: January 2010

Seattle mag editorial director Rachel Hart on going from American to mulicultural in our Comfort Foo

When I sat down to write this month’s column, I was working at home during that early snowfall last November, gazing out the window at our neighbor’s snow-covered fence. It wasn’t even winter, but it was definitely already grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup weather.

The snow will no doubt ebb and flow this season—I’m hoping for flow since I’ve been waxing on about memories of a Midwest winter wonderland and now my boys expect a backyard full of the white stuff. What doesn’t change come winter—drizzly or snowy—is the need to be warmed from one’s core. And when you spend a frazzled two hours or more driving home from work because Seattleites are forever relearning how to drive in the snow (or rain), the last thing you have time for when you finally do get home is making dinner. So we’ve scouted out the warmest, tastiest restaurant dishes to keep you comfy on those soggy days.

Our initial focus was on American comfort food (think mac and cheese), vetted by our loose criteria: the more cheesy, starchy and buttery, the better. But when our staff, with ethnic backgrounds from all over the United States and Canada, started to put this story together, it was obvious that what defines comfort food for one is different for another. When we learned that one of author Lorna Yee’s favorite chicken noodle soups was from a Salvadoran restaurant, it was crystal clear: Seattle is a melting pot of comfort food. Here you can find ’Sconi tater tot casserole, Chinese congee porridge and even vegan macaroni and cheese (this is Seattle, after all).

Also in this issue, we take a look at how hospitals are growing and becoming more diverse in the services they offer. (No, the irony of pairing a comfort food story with a hospital story is not lost on us.) Four years ago, when my husband was having symptoms of cardiac trouble, we were shocked to learn that our neighborhood hospital—the excellent Ballard Swedish—did not have the cardiac catheter lab for the angioplasty he needed. So he was rushed to Northwest Hospital, the closest hospital that did. It’s not until you’re white-knuckling it while riding shotgun in an ambulance with your husband who is having a heart attack that you have occasion to think about such things—who ever would?

Lesson learned? Always call 911 in such an emergency and let the experts take you where you need to go. We are forever grateful for those people that day, from the EMT drivers to the folks at Ballard Swedish to Dr. Margaret Hall and her team at Northwest Hospital.

What should we know about hospitals? I’m not talking about details such as how many beds they have or how many C-sections they perform, but the fundamentals, such as does the hospital you think you’d go to in an emergency have what you need? And, equally important in a complex world of health care reform, what should we know to sort through the dizzying array of information? Hospitals are not like grocery stores or shopping centers you make regular trips to. Let’s face it, most of us try to avoid them. But today they are supercenters of health; every week I read about futuristic-sounding treatments like hyperbaric chambers, or a new hospital campus. Though your options vary according to your health care coverage, we are all lucky to live in a city with an incredible array of specialty health care services. As hospitals and clinics continue to grow and expand and information overload sets in, we hope our story helps you navigate it all.

Until next month,