Hug on a Plate

I’m a sucker for research, especially about food and why we eat what we do. So you can imagine my delight at seeing a news story about University of Buffalo researchers who found that just thinking about a favorite comfort food helps quell feelings of loneliness by reminding us of our connection with others.
I couldn’t resist sharing this story with NOURISH Evolution’s Facebook community and asking members to share their go-to comfort foods. Turns out, people are passionate about their favorite comforting dishes. I started the discussion off by sharing my personal faves: chocolate and carbonara (though not in the same dish). Some admitted they also turn to chocolate and creamy food after a tough day. Homey fare like buttermilk fried chicken and chili made an appearance, too.

Then things took a surprising turn. Of course comfort food doesn’t have to = junk food, and indeed, there was a strong contingent who chimed in with favorites that nourish body and soul. One had a fondness for veggie-laden chicken soup. Lia favors udon soup when she’s down (she also likes any kind of pizza). She and another commenter also enjoy sauteed Swiss chard.

Can such healthy fare be comforting when you’re lonely? That depends on your outlook. One commenter believed true comfort food is by definition sweet and/or fattening. I, too, like an element of richness in my comfort cuisine. For me, this Indian dal offers the best of both worlds of health and comfort. The lentils have a creamy texture while the onion and carrot sauteed in ghee lend a rich element, and it’s all flavored with earthy, warm spices. That’s my idea of a big culinary hug.


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