Published on August 31st, 2011 | by andrea devon3
comfort foods: something to think about
Oftentimes we think of comfort foods as special dishes from our childhood, from our first date(s), our grandmother’s special chicken noodle soup, or those foods that simply make us happy when we are sad. But what about the remainder of the foods we eat: shouldn’t all those foods also make us happy and comforted?
Lately there have been a few articles that really got me thinking about this topic. Most recently, I read a devastating article in the New York Times about a happy, ravenous eater who was abruptly diagnosed with stomach cancer. And just like that, she has to have her stomach removed, taking away her ability to eat with gusto and share food experiences with her husband. A few weeks ago I read about another type of food loss: Jess of hogwash blog writes about her elimination diet- eating for nutrition rather than pleasure- to find relief from her lupus symptoms. She writes about her frustration in giving up meals outside of the house, thinking about not eating fruit, and the inability to test recipes for her own cookbook. Less recently, on the blog honey & salt I read a terribly sad story of a man struggling with a chronic illness and pain. His wife writes about their struggle to track all their ingredients, make all their own everything from scratch:
“We quickly learned there’s more to eating than just filling your stomach [...] But, there was so much to be grateful for. We began each meal giving genuine thanks to God that we had a specialty grocery store nearby, that we had so many options still compared to the rest of the world, and that He provided food for us each day. That real gratitude [is] my favorite thing we’ve carried with us from the diet.”
The idea for this post came to me last week. I had worked too long and too late Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; by Thursday I woke up from nightmares a cranky, crying, undernourished mess. This is particularly ironic because I spend most of my working hours preparing healthy food to share with others. And yet I wasn’t able to make these healthy, nourishing foods appear at home. I had a sandwich one night, macaroni and cheese on another. I bought foods from our vegetarian deli the other days, and snacked excessively. None were terrible foods by any means: salads, raw foods, chips and salsa, maybe some cookies and bars too. But, when I arrived home on Thursday, still cranky and frustrated, all I wanted was a simple meal of brown rice, kale, and tahini.
I realized this is my true comfort food. This meal, varying slightly depending on what protein I fell like pairing with the grains & greens (last week was marinated tempeh), is always my go-to meal when I am feeling undernourished, stressed, lost. It’s the base for meals I’ve shared with some of my dearest friends, and what I want to feed my brother when (if ever!) he comes to dinner.
It was this simple meal that made me most thankful: grateful that I had the option to choose healing foods, contented with knowledge of my body’s needs, and happy with how well I felt immediately afterwards. This is eating for nutrition AND for pleasure. Because the feeling of wellness and comfort leads to the pleasure; this is what I would like to rename as true comfort foods. Foods for our body and soul.
This bowl has everything: protein from tempeh and brown rice, whole-grain nutrition from the rice too, iron and minerals from the kale, healthy fats and calcium from tahini, and probiotics from the miso. And some berries for dessert pair with the vitamins of the lemon juice.
easy miso tahini dressing
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp miso, any type
1/2 tsp honey or agave
pinch black pepper
water to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour liberally over your foods. Relish the richness off the dressing, enjoy the flavor of the greens, nourish your tummy with healing brown rice, and really FEED your body and soul. Be grateful.