It’s one of those days that everything seems to go awfully. You feel like the whole world, or maybe the entire universe, is against you. And as a last resort you reach out for the only person that will cheer you up . You call your mom. And as you go on and on about how desperate you feel and you can’t stop whining, she says the magic words “Come home honey, I’ll make you your favorite dinner!” And all of a sudden your eyes are filled with tears and your heart is overwhelmed by the warm feeling of joy.
You are starting to recall your younger days, when you were just a little kid and you scraped your knees by falling off your bike. There was your mamma with her arms open and as you ran to her to calm you down; she made you warm milk with chocolate chip cookies to dip into. And the pain would magically disappear. Did the cookie take your pain away?
To this day you wonder about that. The truth is that it used to comfort you. And that’s exactly the term that we so widely use nowadays.
Comfort Food. The food that makes us happy and nostalgic. The food that’s there, not to nourish us, but to comfort us, same as are mother’s arms.
Comfort food provides sentimental value to the consumer. It’s often characterized by its high caloric nature, but especially by the nostalgia that comes to us as we taste it. Maybe it remind us of our childhood, of celebrations and holidays like Christmas or our birthdays, our mother, our family, old friends or a past love.
From apple pie to chocolate ice cream and from chicken soup to roasted potatoes with pork in the oven, every country has its distinguished dishes. Those traditional recipes that just by smelling at them, our brain is being triggered in a way that makes us recall our past memories.
Comfort food isn’t something that we can objectively define. This is because food has a different effect in every person and their memories. As we all differ from each other, so does the food that comforts us, but in general, we usually seek the food that we have a sentimental attachment to.
Studies have shown that the two sexes prefer different types of comfort food. For example, men prefer to consume comfort food when they are in a happy state of mind and with a slight preference in steaks and casseroles, whereas women dunk into snack related food like ice-creams and chocolates, especially when they feel depressed. The same studies show that comfort food tendencies change with age too. Young people crave different tastes than older ones.
Although psychologists and researches believe that comfort food has no effect on our mood –and I’m sure they know better– who can resist warm chicken soup after a bad day, or a bar of chocolate when we are gloomy, or that chocolate brownie ice cream which we devour by the tubful after a horrible breakup. They are the antidotes for all our emotional swings.
To sum up, maybe the food doesn’t help us to deal with our problems and it sure doesn’t help to solve them, maybe it’s the justification that we need to eat that one last cookie. Or it just takes us to an emotional flashback in our childhood; the reassurance and warmth of our family which made us feel safe. Whatever the reason it won’t hurt as, unless we overdo it and we use it as an excuse to constantly eat, or it’s causing us food disorders.
So, let that cookie comfort you.
(As I was writing this article, I was preparing dinner, and my husband said to me “Oh honey, the house smells like Sunday!” well, that, Ι think, concludes it all.)