Talk of The Town: December 2021

Make Yourself Comfortable

The winter holidays are a wonderful time to bring more comfort and coziness into your home and life. From our favorite belly-warming comfort foods to insightful tips from experts, we’re focusing this month on different ways to create more memorable hygge moments.

What Is Hygge?

The Danish concept of hygge became a part of the American zeitgeist five years ago with trending articles and social media mentions seemingly everywhere—from the New York Times and The New Yorker to Time Magazine and Instagram—where you’ll now find more than 7 million posts with #hygge!

So what exactly is hygge? Pronounced “hue-guh,” this Danish concept is often translated as a feeling of cozy, comfortable contentment. Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, quotes none other than Benjamin Franklin when describing the idea in his best-selling work The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living: “Happiness consists more in the small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life.”

Hygge is an attitude or a state-of-being, and not about material things. Hot cocoa, candles, fuzzy socks and fleecy blankets are often mentioned when talking about hygge, but these things in themselves do not bring about cozy comfortable contentment. It’s the intimacy and awareness of the moment, acknowledging your gratitude, and the capacity to be authentic, engaged and unguarded that will have you experiencing hygge!

Comfort Foods for Cozy Days—and Nights!

Hygge dining is about the overall experience: The right lighting, a cozy ambience, friendly companions and foods that bring you comfort. As days get colder, here are some places to enjoy a warming hygge meal.

  • Wilde Bar & Restaurant: Dark wood paneling, floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a fireplace set the tone for comfort foods like tomato basil soup and chicken pot pie. wildechicago.com, 3130 N Broadway, Chicago
  • L Woods Tap & Pine Lodge: The coziness of a Northwoods supper club and a large menu that includes French onion soup, a traditional turkey dinner and their signature creamed spinach! lwoodsrestaurant.com, 7110 N Lincoln Ave, Lincolnwood
  • The Noodle Cafe: For over 30 years, this cozy North Shore eatery has been serving fresh-made pastas and other savory fare like their vegetable risotto. thenoodlecafe.com, 708 Twelfth St, Wilmette
Bring Some Hygge to Your Own Kitchen!

First, check out southernliving.com, cooking.nytimes.com, and delish.com to find some tempting, comfort food recipes. When you’re ready to prepare some of those soul-warming comfort dishes, here a few locally owned shops where you can stock up on provisions:

  • Green Grocer Chicago: Committed to working with sustainable Midwest farms and vendors, this West Town store offers fresh meat, dairy and produce along with organic wines and locally-brewed beer. greengrocerchicago.biz, 1402 W Grand Ave, Chicago
  • Savory Spice Shop: Founded by Chicago residents Mike and Janet Johnston, their hometown store offers a vast selection and expert advice. savoryspiceshop.com, 4753 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
  • Homestead Meats: Owner Ehran Ostrreicher and his team offer fresh meats and sausages from livestock raised in open Midwest pastures without hormones or GMO feed. homesteadmeatsevanston.com, 1305 Chicago Ave, Evanston

Tips to Enhance Hygge

Add the holiday season to an already busy schedule, and you may be asking yourself, “Who has time to create a hygge life?” We turned to Ann Arbor-based clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Rigney for some tips. “To experience the benefits of self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time,” she points out. “The key is to be present and mindful: Whatever you’re doing, engage all your senses,” Rigney advises. So enjoy both the flickering flame and the aroma of your favorite scented candle. Close your eyes and really savor the first sip of that frosty craft beer. And when you put on that old sweatshirt, don’t be embarrassed to hug yourself and revel in its soft texture.

When it comes to creating hygge moments with children, we asked Los Angeles-based family therapist S. Abigail McCarrel for advice. “Having agency over one’s life is so important, regardless of age,” McCarrel notes. So she suggests asking your kids what makes them feel cozy. Maybe it’s snuggling with their blankie for the umpteenth reading of their favorite story or having hot cocoa with extra marshmallows. “The important thing is that your kids feel empowered and have your undivided attention,” she advises. “Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, ignore all other distractions and let them be the boss.”