Your favorite comfort food is a very personal affair. Maybe you love macaroni and cheese from that memorable blue box or maybe you prefer a mountain of spaghetti bolognese with a snow-capped peak of parmesan. Or perhaps a simple tub of chocolate ice cream does the trick. Whatever your choice, all people instinctively reach for the food that comforts them after a bad break up, a failed exam, or just to remind them of the sunny days of their childhood.
However, why is it that a few people will rank their choice of comfort foods in the same order. Why are the fuzzy feelings associated with food so inconsistent across the board? And why is it that no one is immune to the lure of comfort food?
The Psychological Love of Food
It turns out that there is more than just your taste buds at work when you enjoy your favorite food. A study conducted in July 2015 revealed a strong relationship between comfort foods and significant relationships in people’s lives.
So while the taste is one part of the equation, a significant portion of your attraction to certain types of food is your association of them with positive memories of important people in your life (your family, close friends, or people who took care of you as a kid).
The science proves it. While you would think that there would be a physical response to comfort food, there isn’t. Unlike the effects of junk food, eating comfort foods does not chemically speed up your feel-good endorphins. Unless your comfort food is junk food, then you’re in for a double whammy of happiness.
Sometimes the giddy feelings are so powerful that they can even be evoked by the wafting smell of your preferred indulgence.
The Cultural Divide
Unsurprisingly, comfort food is defined differently around the world. Naturally, what means safety and happiness to someone who grew up in Jordan is going to be vastly different than for a person who was raised in Great Britain.
These associations and affinity for certain dishes become even more important when you’re separated from your mother culture because eating familiar foods is a direct emotional connection to your family and place of origin. You can see this in action in any major city.
In London, New York, San Francisco, and Beijing, instead of people shedding their cultural heritage and assimilating to the cuisine of the region that they are living in, they are instead open restaurants that feature their regional cuisines. This intensified diversification of food is a passionate project for immigrants all over the world who take pride in sharing their cuisine with the world.
Because at the end of the day, no matter where you come from, sometimes you just need a comforting bowl of whatever it is to make your day better.
What are some of the different cultural comfort foods around the world?
Would you peg fried okra as the universal comfort food of the American South?
It’s an interesting choice, with history and tradition of course, but some might argue a certain barbecue meat like ribs or brisket would take the cake.