a woman reading a newspaper while having breakfast

Nostalgic comfort food is rooted in psychology. From the time we are able to consciously taste and enjoy food, memories and associations begin to form. The study of food is pretty complex, but our lifetime is filled with culinary experiences that we can forget and instantly recall.

Fried Food for Licking Your Fingers

Around 2500 BCE, during the Old Kingdom, people think that frying was first done in an Egyptian kitchen. Frying changes the chemicals in food, making things like chicken and southern fried oysters taste amazing and satisfying at the same time. But there is a deep psychological connection as well. The sugar and starch make the neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes you feel better, especially if you haven’t eaten since you will get cravings.

Nostalgic Comfort Food Comes from Home

Cooking is a great social activity in which everyone can get involved, and home-cooked food is the most comforting. For many of us, the family can get involved, and it makes lasting memories. This is more common in families where this is passed down. For example, you are more likely to cook with your kids if you cooked with your parents. Even if the food doesn’t taste amazing, the memories bind you to it, hence the phrase “Just like mama used to make.” 

Food You Know You Shouldn’t Eat

We all like to be a bit naughty. And every now and then, we like to eat something we know we shouldn’t. Perhaps with high sugar or fat content. Fat makes food smell and taste stronger. It makes foods smooth and creamy, which most of us like. Since fat gives us more energy than proteins or carbs, we feel full more quickly when we eat it. This makes our brains make chemicals that make us feel happy, which forms an association with our favorite naughty food.

What People Say About Food Memories

Food memories are more sensory than other memories because they involve all five senses. When you’re really into something, it has a stronger effect on you. This is why the aroma of a specific food can instantly recall a memory from the back of your mind. Some of the best are:

  • Cooking in the kitchen with parents or grandparents.
  • Helping prepare cakes and food for birthdays.
  • Recalling good times with friends when smelling popcorn or hotdogs.
  • Warm family memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving roast dinners.
  • The innocence of youth from eating your favorite childhood candy.

You have probably had a strong memory come back when you smelled something like cookies or roast meat. But when you smell, taste, see, hear, and touch food at the same time, the memory can become even clearer, bringing back everything you experienced at the time.

Far-Flung Exotic Delights

Most of the time, exotic foods are ones that don’t grow in your country. Foods that aren’t common are called “exotic.” Spices are a great example of a food from a faraway place. These can make food smell and taste better. Most of us love exotic food because we first experience them when we are on vacation somewhere beautiful. The food association becomes part of the experience and binds itself to treasured memories, making the case for traveling afar.

Seeking Nostalgic Comfort Food where You Live

There are many reasons you can move house. In the US alone, 10% of people move home for work or in search of a better life. And often, this means being away from the tastes you love. For instance, you’re not going to get an authentic New England Clam Chowder in Nebraska. But you can go out of your way to find a taste of home by getting out there and exploring your new town. No matter where you live, there will be someone, somewhere, serving dishes you love.

People enjoying food while watching TV with the dog – Image Courtesy of Pexels

Snacking with Movies and TV Shows

Snacking on things like popcorn and chips while watching TV or movies goes hand in hand for most of us. This is because both eating food and watching TV can give you a quick hit of dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel good. So doing them at the same time provides a double dose. So eating your favorite snacks enhances the pleasure you get from each at the same time. Making you enjoy what you are doing and providing you with a joyous experience,

Summary

Life is filled with food experiences, and many of them are happy occasions. With a faint aroma of something, you can be transported back to a long-forgotten memory. Some of the most enjoyable for us are fried foods, early food memories, and snacking with our favorite TV shows.

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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