American Comfort Food
By Joan Whetzel
Food not only feeds our bodies, it soothes our emotions and nourishes our souls. which is why we turn to comfort foods during times of stress. Recently, About.com conducted a survey of Americans to determine the top comfort foods. The top two favorites were grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. What are comfort foods? And why do they comfort us?
What Are Comfort Foods?
Comfort foods are foods with a basic, traditional recipe, which can be tweaked to individual family tastes. So each family has their own take on the traditional recipe. These comfort foods generally carry nostalgic or sentimental attachments for individuals, families, and cultures alike as well as connecting us with home and helping us feel contentment. They are generally known to calm our psyche and emotions.
America's Favorite Comfort Foods
According to the About.com survey, the top 25 comfort foods (in alphabetical order) include: apple pie, baked beans, banana pudding, barbecued chicken wings, beef stew, brisket, pot roast, chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, chicken soup, chili, chocolate chip cookies, corn on the cob, fried chicken, gelatin, green bean casserole, hot dogs, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, potato salad, pumpkin pie, shepherd's pie, spaghetti, tomato soup, and tuna casserole. Not surprisingly, many of these foods are soft and easily to chew.
What Qualifies a Food as Comfort Food?
Comfort foods remind us of childhood, when our parents took care of us and comforted us. As such they offer a breather from the stresses placed on us every day. Some foods comfort us for personal reasons. For, if our moms always made us chicken soup when we were sick, it will continue to comfort us when we are sick on into adulthood. Some comfort foods have positive associations from our childhood, like the lasagna we always had on Christmas Eve, the hero sandwich we enjoyed every July 4th, or the homemade pizza we made every year for our sleep over birthday parties. Others are comfort foods with cultural associations, they're the recipes brought by our families from the homeland when emigrating to America.
Another, reason for the comfort these foods supply is the higher levels of carbs and fats. Foods like fried chicken or mac and cheese which are higher and carbs and fats are more satisfying physically. They leave us feeling full and sated for a long time after we've finished eating. From a psychological standpoint, many comfort foods make our moods better when we're depressed, angry, irritable, or lonely; replacing these feelings with a sense of well-being. Because the foods are connected with people and events that were comforting to us, when we eat them, they leave us feeling comforted. In fact, we may not even have to eat the comfort food, as the mere thought of certain comfort foods can have the effect of comforting us.
There is definitely a place for comfort foods in our life. They calm our emotions, the relieve the fight-or-flight response brought on by stressful situations, and they make us feel physically sated and more comfortable. Is it any wonder we turn to comfort foods from time to time? True, they may be higher in calories, but they need not be considered unhealthy. They are a form of alternative medicine that cures the ails of our emotional and psychological health. If our emotions and psyche are out of whack for very long, they can throw our physical health out of whack as well.