Saturday, September 10, 2011

Offering Chicken Soup

There will be few of us who will not take pause this weekend to remember the unspeakable horror of September 11, 2001. We will all note where we were and recall the overwhelming revulsion for such a hideous attack.

Much has changed in our country and in our lives in the decade that has ensued. We have learned to live with an underpinning of fear. We continue to suffer through unresolved conflicts overseas and divisiveness at home. Our economy is skidding and more than half our citizens are teetering on financial ruin. The American Dream is lost for many, at risk for many more.

Our souls crave nurturing in these trying times and there is nothing more satisfying than the nourishing comfort of favorite foods. Comfort foods. They have made a comeback in a big way. There is little wonder why.

Mashed potatoes, meatloaf and gravy. Mama's pasta and homemade sauce. Tomato soup and grilled cheese. Ice cream, warm Toll House cookies, peanut butter and jelly. Hot chocolate, rice pudding. And what is it about a hot bowl of home made chicken soup that will calm us, soothe us, ease our troubles and smooth our brow? 

Why do certain foods make us peaceful, make us smile? Is it just because they carry the memories of home? Because they're familiar and traditional? Are they tangled with the happy ignorance of our youth?

Exactly why do we crave comfort foods when we are in need of comfort? There is a scientific reason and it's pretty easy to understand:

Many of these foods are loaded with carbohydrates. During stressful times our bodies crave carbohydrates because stress breaks down serotonin, a neurotransmitter in our brains needed to regulate sleep, reduce pain, control appetite and calm nerves. Eating foods high in carbohydrates triggers the body to release insulin, which then allows the brain to produce more serotonin which in turn, makes us happy again.*

Do not fight that bowl of pasta or the scoop of ice-cream with chocolate fudge. Your body and soul are talking to you when those cravings hit. Indulge moderation of course. It will truly make you feel much much better.

What do I eat for comfort? Ah, I knew you'd ask. For me it's always a four minute poached egg (in well salted water) on buttered rye bread toast. Oh, and extra toast for mopping up the yolk.  Mother always made that when I wasn't feeling well. Sometimes applesauce with raisins would follow for dessert.

*from an article by Nutritionist Maria Karalis, MBA, RD, LDN