Guest Post: Understanding the “Comfort” Behind Comfort Food

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When asked the question “What is your favorite comfort food?”, most of us can answer this question in a heart beat. We can quickly recite the food we tend to crave during times where we feel less than stellar, whether it’s when we are feeling ill, feeling blue or feeling lonely. But what exactly gives our comfort food of choice the “power” to soothe our soul when we are not at our best?

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Each individual’s preference of comfort food varies – to one it could be a bowl of chicken soup while another opts for a heartier meal such as macaroni & cheese. Image credit: Alila Manggis Bali

Though many of our comfort food choices tend to be high in caloric content such as a bowl of a cream soup, macaroni and cheese or french fries, in contrast to most beliefs, what actually make those particular foods so comforting is actually not their caloric count nor ingredients, but rather their ability to “transport” us to moments in the past where we felt most joyful and comforted.

As children, we have been subconsciously conditioned by our primary caregivers to associate the feeling of warmth and being taken care of to certain foods. Hence, as adults, eating the food itself is enough to trigger that same feeling of belonging and comfort.

The results of a recent study done by a team from two U.S.–based universities, State University of New York at Buffalo and University of the South, appeared to back this theory. As Shira Gabriel, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York, Buffalo and the co-author of the study explained to a reporter of, “When we think about something like comfort food, we tend to think about it as providing calories or warmth or a sense of well-being. But to equate “comfort food” with “caloric” is to misunderstand where the comfort actually comes from because these foods also provide something social to us.

Image credit: J Bar L
Nothing brings people together quite like food. Image credit: J Bar L

In a world where everything moves in a fast pace, special moments in life could be easily shrouded or simply forgotten. The “magic” that our comfort food has is its ability in helping us to recollect that warm and fuzzy feeling of being in our joyful past and experience priceless moments once more.

When you are eating your comfort food of choice, it is as if you are experiencing cherished moments with a loved one where that particular food was often involved. Perhaps they were the moments your mom used to make that chicken pot pie whenever you had the flu or when your grandmother whipped up her famous rice pudding during family gatherings where echoes of laughter filled the room.

Fortunately for us, not only can we experience nostalgia by eating comfort food, we can also trigger these memories by preparing the food ourselves. Sometimes, it may not be the food itself but rather the process of creating the dish that brings us comfort. In this case, it is likely that we have associated comfort more as a journey that started in picking the ingredients all the way to cooking the dish and serving it to the people we love.

Preparing comfort food with your loved ones can create priceless memories. Image credit:
Preparing comfort food with your loved ones can create priceless memories. Image credit: Amauta Spanish School

The added bonus that comes with being able to prepare our comfort food is that it allows us to create and share our own wonderful moments with loved ones. This will not only enable us to experience wonderful bursts of nostalgia, but also create a sense of continuity as we pass down special moments to the younger generation. Who knows? Perhaps the food that you make may just one day become their own fond source of comfort.

BookCulinaryVacations offers a wealth of options of cozy home-cooking style vacations located all over the globe. A culinary holiday that takes you on a trip down memory lane can be a great source of cooking inspiration as well as a way to recall sweet moments of the past, create new wonderful memories, and of course, get cooking!

About BookCulinaryVacations
BookCulinaryVacations is a global food and wine focused travel site that seeks to make your most scrumptious culinary dreams a reality. It offers over 400 cookery holidays, food tours, wine vacations, professional chef training packages from 150+ organizers in more than 60 destinations located all over the globe.

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