Sure, you’ve heard of the term comfort food. A cup of hot chocolate is the ideal solution on a cold, rainy day. On a hot summer day, ice cream; on the days when you are under the weather, khichdi; on the good days biryani, and the bad ones, maybe french fries or a slice of pizza or two.
Food gives you comfort. But is this sense of comfort bound by a memory? Chances are, it is. So you are looking for certain foods at certain times, not necessarily because of the nutrition it brings or its taste, but because of a memory it invokes.
Did you know?
The term ‘comfort food’ was first coined by Hollywood actress and singer Liza Minnelli to express her love for hamburgers in the 1970s. She said, “Comfort food is all you just yum, yum, yum”
According to daily.jstor.org, “the comfort food of the 1970s was intensely personal, something one could enjoy at home and alone. Before Minnelli, comfort food was described as a bland diet for the sick, elderly and young. In the decade that followed, the two words grew slowly. to an inevitable food fashion, and now, half a century later, comfort food has become the trend that will never end. ”
Comfort food for everyone
We talked to a couple of our readers about what comfort food means to them. We got the common message: food holds the key to happiness, especially on sad days.
“I always prefer sandwiches, but I can not resist a burger,” said 30-year-old Dubai-based Egyptian foreigner and Gulf News reader Rana Morsy. “Cheese, pickles, sauces and a juicy patty … I love the mess that is created when a burger is eaten. I only eat it in times of need because I keep my fitness in check. The feeling of comfort that comes from eating a burger, however, is temporary because the moment I eat it, I feel guilty about consuming the calories. “
For the 31-year-old Filipino and Gulf News reader MJ Dinglasan, salmon sushi offers the ultimate in comfort every day. “I love Japanese food. It gives me a lot of comfort. However, I only discovered my love for it in Dubai. Before that, I used to resort to french fries for comfort. Especially salmon sushi makes me happy, especially when I eat it to meet a craving. It’s a stress reliever and I just wish it was a permanent feeling. “
Security, memories of home, childhood or traditions, food is truly a friend.
Tasneem Shahana, a 30-year-old Indian expatriate and Gulf News reader, cannot keep his hands off a good plate of biryani. “It all started when my mom made it at home. I used to enjoy watching her make it, the aroma that came from the dish, and then wait to eat it … I grew up with it. When I moved to Dubai, was surprised by the food scene here, especially because the city had many options.The food culture is just brilliant and it made me realize that food is more of an emotion.In the end we all want to be happy and food brings it.For me “keep the feeling going for a long time. I’m looking for the days when I have a day off and I can relax to make biryani or order in.”
For 37-year-old Dubai-based Indian expat and Gulf News reader Farah Butt, bringing french fries happiness and comfort together. “It started during the pandemic. Restaurants were closed and we used to buy frozen french fries in the supermarket. So when the restrictions were lifted and restaurants reopened, we used to order french fries as snacks in the evening. It became a tradition. For us as a family. However, it left a permanent feeling of joy more than a temporary one. So I do not eat it daily nor during a crisis, but only when I feel like it. “
We also spoke with Vikesh Rana, a 37-year-old chef in Dubai and a Gulf Newsreader whose comfort lies in a bowl of rice and dal (split yellow lentils). “I think my love for this dish began when I was a young boy. My mother used to make it right after school and it’s just been in my heart ever since. A blob of ghee (clarified butter) with mustard seed temperament and cumin seeds … the feeling is just blissful when you eat it.Over time, this has become the perfect solution after a long day at work and I enjoy the dish in front of the TV or with my family.It’s a permanent feeling. .. a feeling of home along with the comfort that comes from a bowl of dal chaawal. “
Speaking of home, 41-year-old Dubai-based Italian foreigner and Gulf News reader Silvia Gnapetta says the feeling of comfort comes from a slice of pizza topped with buffalo mozzarella cheese. “I’m from Italy and we take our food very seriously. But since I’ve been to Dubai for nine years, I’ve only found the pizza I love is at an Italian restaurant in Dubai. We can get pizza for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but it has to be perfect.So I make sure to eat from there every month, even though I order in or go out and eat on the hard days … where I feel like eating pizza is like getting a hug. It has become the choice for me after nine years. “
Talking to our readers helped us discover that consuming comfort foods is seen as a solution to emotional stress that triggers the brain’s reward system ‘. Moreover, our poll results also showed that 35 percent of our readers consume comfort food daily, while 65 percent resort to comfort food during a crisis.
What is the brain’s reward system?
According to the New York-based Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the reward circuit controls a person’s reactions to natural rewards, such as food and social interactions. It is therefore an essential determinant of motivation and incentive drive. In simplified terms, activating the path tells the individual to repeat what they just did to get this reward. It also tells the memory centers in the brain that they need to pay special attention to all the functions of the rewarding experience so that it can be repeated in the future. Not surprisingly, it is a very old path from an evolutionary point of view. For example, the use of dopamine neurons is seen to mediate behavioral responses to natural rewards in worms and flies, which evolved about a billion years ago.
How does comfort food trigger memory?
Like we said, every food fills the stomach, but comfort food fills the heart. So it is no surprise that carbohydrates or sugar are the best options available when seeking comfort. Carbohydrates release a good amount of serotonin (also known as the ‘happiness hormone’) – a chemical in our brain that regulates our mood and creates a feeling of calm or stability.
Food acts as an imminent reward. [People resort to] a particular right, because of their memory and the learning of the hedonic component or because of its pleasant reward also to the brain.
– Dr Lakshmi Saranya, Clinical Psychologist, Lifeline Modern Family Clinic in Dubai
For a clearer idea, the Gulf News Food team contacted Dr Lakshmi Saranya, a clinical psychologist from the Lifeline Modern Family Clinic in Dubai, who explained the science behind comfort food. “A particular food or dish acts as a cue that can signal the immediate availability of a reward. For example, some eat it as a distraction from a stressful day, while some eat because of their good mood or a euphoric day. In both cases, food acts as an imminent reward. [People resort to] a particular right, because of their memory and the learning of the hedonic component or because of its pleasant reward also to the brain.
“Every pleasant stimulus leaves an impact on our brain. It can be a favorite food, person or even a place. So the dining experience is affected by the properties of the food itself and how the brain processes the sensory stimuli presented to the brain while eating. In addition. “Eating food – favorite or not – evokes memories and generates emotional reactions.”
Today, comfort food has transformed from eating a particular dish to experimenting and creating new meals. French fries with a scoop of ice cream, nachos with chutney or even mac and cheese with pickle or achaar works fine on a bad day.
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