Comfort food is something we turn to when we’re feeling down. It can evoke memories of feeling safe, warm and loved. Of being a child again with no responsibilities or problems. These are the top 10 comfort foods.
The taste of warm apple pie, freshly baked bread or our favourite ice cream can take us right back to that special time in our lives. But it doesn’t have to be any of these things. Comfort food can be anything you want that reminds you of childhood or brings back happy memories from a time in your life when all was well. That’s why we love it so much and why we turn to certain foods when we’re feeling down.
For me, comfort food is a slice of cake, still warm from the oven. My great aunt used to make a lovely dark, rich fruit cake that I couldn’t resist. Other favourites are my mum’s corned beef pie with flaky puff pastry, or my dad’s ravioli and baked macaroni.
One taste of these comfort foods and I’m transported back to my childhood, coming home from school and inhaling the delicious smells of something baking in the oven. Then sitting around the table with my parents and younger brother to tuck into a hearty meal and talk about our respective days.
I remember the feeling of closeness and love that seemed to wrap around me like a warm blanket. Any time I want to recreate that magical feeling, I make one of mum or dad’s recipes and I’m back there, sitting at the table and sharing a joke with my brother or telling my mum about my day at school. It does wonders for my stress levels.
What were your favourite comfort foods?
Comfort Food – Why Do We Need It?
But why is comfort food so important to us? Once we’re adults, surely we can just deal with things in an adult way without needing to regress to the age of five?
Well, I don’t know about you but there are times when my day-to-day life can become overwhelming and I want to shout “Stop the world, I want to get off!” then crawl under my duvet and hide. But being an adult with responsibilities and holding down a job, I can’t do that, tempting though it is sometimes.
For some of us, comfort food is a tub of ice cream, eaten in bed or in front of the TV; for others, it’s a pile of hot buttered toast or a bar of our favourite chocolate. We all have our go-to fixes when we’re feeling low or vulnerable.
Winter is another time when we need comfort food. Long, dark days, cold weather, persistent rain. We feel the need to cheer ourselves up and food is usually the first thing we turn to. Hearty stews and casseroles, pies with buttery, flaky pastry, thick soups, and baked pasta dishes. As soon as we taste these warming, comforting foods we feel better. It’s like an instant hit of a happy chemical bursting into our brain.
In effect, it is; there are 4 chemicals produced in the brain known as the ‘happy hormones.’ Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins. These hormones are produced when we do something pleasurable – like eat our favourite food. Dopamine is part of our brain’s reward system. Read more here.
Recent evidence has shown that cooking and sharing a meal with someone we love can activate all of these happy hormones. This is probably why I have such fond memories of my childhood meals, sitting around the table with my family and I will always associate it with feelings of love and comfort.
Sweet or Savoury?
So, the next question is sweet or savoury? When life is not going well for you, do you reach for a sugary fix or something savoury? For most of us, it varies. If we’ve had a row with a partner maybe we want a bowl of rice pudding or some chocolate cake. Or if we’ve had a bad day at work and the pressure became overwhelming, we might reach for some fresh bread with butter or a bag of our favourite crisps.
Sometimes we just want to switch off from being an adult with responsibilities and that’s when we will want to indulge in foods that remind us of being a child, of comfort and love. The type of food chosen depends on our mood and how we want to feel.
What Are Your Favourite Comfort Foods?
Do you have a favourite food that you reach for when life gets tough? Are there certain foods that remind you of childhood or a time when you felt safe and loved? Here are the top 10 comfort foods that I would turn to when in need of a lift.
- Chocolate. This had to be number 1 on the list! Milk, dark or white chocolate, how many of us reach for a bar of our favourite chocolate to give our mood a lift?
- Chicken soup. Hot, savoury and soothing, this could have been something our mums gave to us when we felt unwell and couldn’t eat a full meal.
- Chocolate biscuits. A cup of tea and a few chocolate biscuits or chocolate chip cookies can soon put the world to rights. A cup of tea was my mum’s favourite remedy. Whether I’d had an argument with my best friend or my boyfriend had just dumped me, she would put the kettle on and make me a cup of strong, sweet tea.
- Cake. For some of us, cake is a ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ food. But if we’re feeling really awful, we want cake. Who cares about all those calories when you need cheering up?
- Hot buttered toast. White bread, popped in the toaster and slathered with butter is a popular comfort food. Sometimes with scrambled egg or baked beans on top, but more often just the toast and butter.
- Ice cream. Another go-to food for times when life is not treating you well. Eaten straight from the tub with a spoon is more comforting than scooping some into a bowl.
- Crisps. When we’re in the mood for something salty and savoury, crisps fit the bill. I know of someone who had a bad weekend and ate 32 bags of crisps. She said it helped her!
- Pizza. For when we want to be wrapped in a hug and soothed, pizza is a good choice. There’s something about the gooey, melting cheese and the doughy crust that fills a need in us. Although I can eat pizza any time, even when I’m happy…
- Fresh bread. A slice of bread, cut from a fresh loaf and generously spread with butter is extremely satisfying. You can’t help but feel better at the first bite.
- Hot chocolate. Okay, it’s not food. But a mug of steaming hot chocolate can help to make us feel warm and loved inside. So that’s why it’s on the list.
I hope you enjoyed this article on comfort food. Perhaps you have your own list of favourites? If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Pies are my favourite comfort food. For some great pie recipes please visit Easy Homemade Pie Recipes
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