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GUEST COLUMN

Which is more comforting: your favorite food or a big soft couch?

Personally, I prefer them both at the same time. There's something marvelously self-indulgent about eating while you're lying down.

I like a nice family meal around the table as much as the next person. But when I travel, there's nothing I love more than scarfing down overpriced room service crab cakes, while lounging on the bed watching the tube.

And unbeknownst to my children, every time they go to Grandma and Granddad's, my husband and I blatantly break the "no eating in the family room rule" as we hit the couch with pizza, a few beers and a DVD.

I guess it's just my trashy roots. I love to eat in front of the television.

Classier folks may feel pampered when somebody serves them a four-course dinner on fine bone china, or homemade fudge brownies on a big white ceramic plate. But for me, nothing says love more than boxed, mac 'n' cheeze served in a plastic bowl, and consumed while watching "Brady Bunch" reruns.

It's more than just the sloth-like pleasure of eating chemically created, cheese-like products when you're prone. It's how certain foods just go with certain situations. My husband can't go to a ball game without a chili-dog. I can't give a seminar without three packs of M&M's. And my stepmother thinks she'll be kicked out of the Grandma Hall of Fame if the slice-and-bakes aren't emerging from the oven the moment the kids walk in the door.

We've all got our own version of comfort food.

My latest addiction is QuikTrip coffee. It's the poor man's Starbucks. For less than a buck, you can fill up a 24-ounce polystyrene cup with your customized mixture of coffee, cream and cocoa.

Ever since I discovered that my favorite gas station has a latte bar, I can't even go to the grocery store without swinging in for a little caffeine-sugar boost.

I thought it was just an occasional indulgence, but when my husband gave me a QuikTrip gift card for Valentine's Day, I practically swooned. There's something kind of pathetic about a woman who would rather get $200 bucks on a QuikTrip card than jewelry.

When I managed to spend half the card up in February, I realized I was hooked. No gas or food, mind you, I blew $100 bucks in one month on coffee. Well, to be specific, caramel hazelnut lattes.

It's gotten to the point where if I drive more than two miles without that little red-and-blue, foam-like cup in my hand, I start to get the shakes.

I'm a creature of habit and all my food habits are bad ones.

I wish that I craved carrot sticks in times of stress. I wish my family tradition dictated that we serve steamed salmon and veggies for Thanksgiving dinner. And I wish that long car trips made me crave hummus and water.

But as it is, I celebrate the good times, the bad times and even the most mundane times of my life with processed sugar and fat.

However, now that I've added convenience-store caffeine to the mix, I've eliminated the pretense that my food rituals had anything to do with food at all.

I've gone from a woman who liked a little greasy pizza while she watched Nora Ephron movies to a woman who can't drive in the car-pool line without a toffee latte.

But maybe that's progress. I don't watch as much TV as I used to. Now when I see my husband sitting in his armchair, gazing at the screen while he chomps pigs 'n blankets, I know that I've moved on.

I'm more sophisticated. I'm the cool chick in a leather bucket seat, mindlessly staring at the windshield, waiting for the light to change, enjoying a little cup of love.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and her newest book, "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear."

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