When I think of comfort the first thing I think of is food. Whether I am feeling down, wanting to celebrate or even planning a camping trip, the first thing I think about is; what food should we have so we feel good?
Some might say using food as comfort is an unhealthy emotional disorder but I beg to differ. I think using food as part of a solution to ‘the blues,’ to celebrate or to remind us of pleasurable times is a healthy. That being said, I don’t disagree that when food is our only coping strategy to fluctuations in mood and circumstance then we have a problem. What I am talking about is something different.
The other day I was faced with an example of the circumstance I am referring to. I was planning on spending a day with my youngest daughter who is just two weeks away from finishing her 3rd year of studies at university. As is to be expected, she is rather wound up about all the assignments that are due and the worry that she will run out of time to get them done. As I prepared for the trip down to see her I remembered myself in the exact same circumstance many years ago. As well as spending time with her I wondered what I could do to make these last days easier for her. The answer was rather obvious I suppose. Food.
That’s right. Food that reminds Hanna that she has a Mom who cares about her and who took the time to make her meals and treats memorable as well as delicious. I arrived at her little place with Apricot Loaf, Salted,Double Chocolate Cookies, Oatmeal Bars and Blueberry Muffins. I plunked the bag of treats on her kitchen table and said, “that should get you through the next few days.” She replied, ‘yikes Mom,’ but I knew she was pleased. As she toils away on her last papers and spends late nights in the art room, I imagine her sneaking a couple of cookies to stay awake and motivated while all the while knowing that she has a Mom who is there for her and wants her to succeed.
Another reminder of how food comforts came in the last few text messages that I received from my son, also away at university but far away in another country. Sending him treats is out of the question because of the cost of shipping and the fact that by the time they arrived to him they would be stale or in pieces, not to mention he is an athlete on a scholarship and needs to stay in top physical condition, so he doesn’t often eat sweets during the school year.
The first text I received came after a brief phone call from my son about what cut of steak would be good for him to purchase. A couple of hours after giving him some guidance I received a text of a picture with the most delicious, beautifully presented steak salad, complete with fresh cilantro garnish. I was so proud of him and so pleased that he remembered a meal that I used to make when we only had a small amount of meat and needed it to stretch for the whole family. I would make up an Asian style salad dressing, prepare a large salad, barbecue a steak and then slice the steak very thinly and place it over the salad. After that I would put out a little dish of rock salt and the salad dressing and we would dress our own salads according to personal taste. I remember he used to really like this meal and I used to feel so smug, knowing I had fed my family with as little as one steak and a few fresh produce ingredients.
My son is getting near the end of a very long school year and because of his location it is still snowing and blowing while we bask in Spring here on the coast. He has had more than enough of school and winter but needs to gather one last bit of steam to make it through the next month. I guess the fresh cilantro and lime juice were flavors he instinctively knew would not only remind him of meals at home but also of fresher more green times to come as he prepares to return home to the island.
I received a second text message picture the following evening of a delicious looking grilled chicken breast with what looked to be fresh mango salsa, complete with cilantro, red pepper and onions. I can’t explain how pleasing it is for me as a mother to know that my kids appreciate not only the nutrition food provides but the emotional nutrition we can give ourselves and our families when we make a habit of taking the time to prepare real food and present it in aesthetically pleasing ways each and every day. I like to think of it as a big hug and an ‘I love you’ wrapped up in every bite.