Take Comfort from Comfort Food

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Bad days happen to all. Sometimes we wake up, and within the first hour or so, we know it’s going to be a bad day. When something or even nothing has made us angry, frustrated, disappointed, or sad. 

And when we’re sad, we tend to crave food that makes us feel good……

And that was exactly how I felt  last Monday when I found out that I have lost one of my friends.  I was feeling so sad and my mood was very low and suddenly I was craving for my comfort food……..

Why Craving Comfort Food?

Comfort food is a specific food consumed under a specific situation to obtain psychological comfort.  When we are sad, we crave for comfort food to overcome our feelings. One reason food is comforting is that some comfort foods like sweet treats or savory snacks contained sugar and/or fat that give us a fast “bump of euphoria” and makes us feel good. 

While each of us may look for a comfort food when we are either sad or happy, we are more likely to eat more of it when we are sad, Professor Wansink said. The craving for comfort food is definitely linked to sad feelings.

We all have our own version of comfort food. Some prefer sweet treats like candy, chocolate bar, ice cream, pudding while some others prefer savory snacks or different types of soup, and many others.

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What actually defines “comfort food”?

An article on comfort food mentioned that perhaps an easier way to get to the heart of the meaning of comfort food is to find out what comfort food is not.

Comfort food is definitely not “healthy food” and so far, I’ve never heard that someone’s idea of comfort was a salad with low-calorie or low-fat dressing. 

In fact, most comfort foods are rich in fat or salt or MSG or sugar. Also, comfort food is not necessarily expensive: when I need comfort, I don’t look for foie gras or wagyu steak or caviar. Generally, comfort food is simple yet tasty.

Comfort Food and My Childhood Memories

According to an article in Psychology Today, people link comfort foods with happy memories, people they love, or feelings they want to recapture. It’s not the food itself that provides comfort,  it’s the feelings that the food stimulates. If our mom always fed us homemade soup or freshly baked brownies when we were ill or upset, then we’ll be craving comfort foods when we’re sad…….

I can agree with that. When I was a kid, I was a sickly type of a kid. Almost every month I got sick and when I was sick, I usually did not want to eat my meal. This made my Mom worried so she gave me the privilege of choosing what I would like to have for my meal. 

One of my favorite meals when I got sick was my Mom’s special pork rib soup. During that time, the price of pork ribs were rather expensive and economically my parents were not in a good shape but my Mom would cooked me the pork rib soup. That’s why it was a truly special comfort food for me that even now, many many years later, I still crave for it.   

And that is the whole point of comfort food. The main term is not “food” but rather “comfort.” It evokes our memories — and brings us back to an experience of something good and exceptional.

For me, it is the experience of being in bed and sick, and being taken care of by my Mom as she brought me my warm pork rib soup. So comfort food actually doesn’t merely feed us, it nourishes our soul.

And here is my Mom’s recipe of my comfort food:

Pork-Rib Soup with Pickled-Green-Mustard (*)

Ingredients:

  • 225 gram pickled green mustard leaves, soaked in water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 liter chicken stock
  • 500 gram pork ribs, cut into large chunks
  • 30 ml fish sauce
  • pinch of sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper 

 Preparation:

  • Cut the pickled mustard leaves into bite-size pieces. Taste to check the seasoning. If they are too salty, then soak them for a little bit longer.
  • Heat the oil in a small frying pan, add the garlic and stir-fry until golden. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  • Put the stock in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then add the pork and simmer gently for 30 minutes
  • Add the pickled mustard leaves. Bring back to the boil. Season to taste with fish sauce, sugar and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Serve warm 

In some Chinese restaurant in the city where I live, this pork rib soup often served in pair with barbequed pork:

References:

  • Wikipedia
  • suite101.com
  • petitchef.com
  • Psychology Today
  • Articles on Comfort Food 
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