Food: The Key to Time Travel, Happiness and London

Today I woke up with the urge to have a traditional English breakfast. Usually consisting of eggs, bacon, beans, toast, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage and tea, an English breakfast can fill even the largest of men. Well, after rummaging through my kitchen I found eggs, bacon and beans. So I wound up having half of a traditional English breakfast. And as the true-blood American I am, I further knocked the plate down by switching tea for coffee. ugh, Anyways — I remember the first time I ever had a real English breakfast. I was having brunch at a restaurant called Coco Momo in South Kensington. It was one of those epiphanic moments caused by my taste buds kicking into over drive after seeing how foods I normally wouldn’t put together actually complement each other so well. I mean seriously, beans with breakfast? Maybe it’s because I was nursing a hangover and delusional at the time but that breakfast was one of the best I’ve ever had.

london3Food is such an interesting thing. Coming from an Italian family, I have noticed that the kitchen is the epicenter for my family. Whether it’s my parents and I or cousins, we often flock to the kitchen, open a bottle of wine and eat a nice antipasto while catching each other up on our days. It’s the room where I’ve met newborn babies for the first time, laughed myself silly with my friends and shared sad moments with loved ones. All of these moments, of course, took place around food. I believe that we can create emotional connections with our past through food. I know I do.

It’s been shown that certain foods actually do affect our moods. There are also certain foods that do the exact opposite. And then there are comfort foods. The compounds in them don’t affect our brains the way “happy” or “sad” foods do, but they have a psychological affect on us. These are comfort foods. We each have our own, but the common denominator is that our comfort foods connect us to a particular memory, feeling from the past or person.

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I’ve often wondered how we make these connections between food and memories and why our comfort foods can differ. A Cornell University study, done in 2007, looked to find these answers. It found that women reach for sugary/sweet treats while men prefer savory plates. Results also showed that men are more likely to eat comfort food as a reward while women are more likely to feel guilty after eating their favorite dishes. I can definitely  relate to this and feel that the reason why I eat comfort food has an affect on whether I feel guilty about eating it or not.

For example, if I eat one-too-many slices of pizza because I’m sad, then there’s no doubt that I’ll feel guilty about my indulgence. However, if my indulgences are caused by a positive emotion, I’m much less likely to feel guilty about them. After coming home from London, a traditional English breakfast has been added to my comfort food list, as it brings me back to my favorite period of my life – my time abroad. A plate of antipasto and red wine brings me immediate comfort, as it reminds me of the strong connection I have with my family. And jello makes me think of my great-grandmother, who would have rows of bowls full of homemade jello tucked away in her refrigerator.

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Comfort food, I believe, is an incredibly important part of a healthy, happy life. We shouldn’t overdo it. With that being said, giving in to our feelings every-now-and-then is a great way to indulge our stomachs and our memories.

Until next time,

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