A few days ago, I found myself preparing an Italian pasta with sardines and baked bread crumbs for a dinner, and somehow I discovered the taste of childhood, the taste I haven't been able to revive for years. When I was a child, my Grandma often made for us a homemade pasta with fried breadcrumbs... it may sound strange, but this poor in ingredients dish brings a lot of great moments and warm memories and a smile on my face to this day... It reminds me of homemade pasta noodles laid in Grandma's living room on large sheets of paper to dry... oh, happy days... it was our little 'comfort food', which we used to eat only at Grandma's and she only did it best... Not without reason, many Internet sources and literature defines comfort food as this, prepared according to traditional recipes that may have a sentimental and nostalgic appeal. While successive nutritionists argue and chase in inventing more and healthier food combinations that do not necessarily make us happier, most of us returns to the traditional, typically associated with home warmth and close to us people, meals. This is what make people feel they belong. Macaroni cheese, chocolate pudding, and grilled sausage are maybe not the best for our coronary arteries. And it’s no secret that we consume 'comfort food' during periods of increased stress or negative emotions. But recently I came across a very interesting article in the journal of 'Psychological Science', in which the study of D. Troisi and Shira Gabriel proved that so-called 'comfort food' combats feelings of loneliness. The authors wondered whether the 'comfort food' can make people think about their loved ones and can contribute to their well-being. The results, indeed confirmed it. In one experiment, participants had to write for six minutes about the fight with someone close, to induce a sense of loneliness, while the other control groups had emotionally neutral writing assignment. In each group, most participants wrote about the experience of eating 'comfort food', while others wrote about eating the newly invented dishes. In the next stage of research, each group had to answer several questions to determine their level of loneliness. Participants in the experiment who wrote about the fight with a close person showed high levels of loneliness. But those who generally feel safe in their relationships, as measured before the start of the experiment, was saved from loneliness by writing about food.
The study author, Jordan Troisi says ... “We have found that comfort foods are foods which are consistently associated with those close to us,” says Troisi. “Thinking about or consuming these foods later then serves as a reminder of those close others.”
In his essays, most of the participants wrote about the experience of eating with family and friends. The authors concluded that the food described as a 'comfort food' can serve as a great and simple way to alleviate feelings of loneliness. In another experiment of the same authors, eating chicken soup by participants, caused intense thoughts about the relationships, but only if the chicken soup was considered by them as 'comfort food'.
We do not feel lonely tonight, however lack of sun and a storm outside made us crave for something relaxing, rich in calories, and above all tasty... Thus, using the variety of the British 'comfort food', we gave an old cauliflower gratin a little contemporary twist by adding a little bit of garlic and sweet potatoes. Simple, fast, delicious and perfect for long winter evenings with someone close.
Cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes gratin with cheddar and garlic sauce.
Ingredients for two portions:
2 sweet potatoes
200g half fat cream 'fraiche'
100g extra mature 'cheddar'
Salt and pepper
2 large cloves of garlic
Steam the broccoli and cauliflower until just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Mix the crème fraîche, cheese, salt and pepper and toss with the vegetables. In a separate pot boil sweet potatoes until soft. Then cut the potatoes in slices and pile them in a heatproof dish. We used two deep heat-resistant plates. Pile the veggies with sauce on top of potatoes and top with handful more cheese. Grill until golden in 180 degrees. Serve hot.
Enjoy your meal with someone very close!