Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Hot comfort food

The recession’s being blamed again, this time for our growing indulgence in comfort eating! And while foods like baked beans top our list of comfort tastes Simon Cowell chomps his way through Angel Delight as his way of combating stress!

But Simon’s not the only one returning to his childhood taste buds. According to reports, treats like Crispy Pancakes are making a big come back and Black Forest Gateau is firmly back on the menu.

So what’s going on? From all these reports it would seem that it’s not just a little comfort eating we’re indulging in but, real retro-style comfort food.

Comfort food fulfils certain criteria for us - usually sweet, stodgy or tastes and textures linked to our childhood in some way. Foods like boiled eggs and soldiers, ice cream or cakes. Food that has the ability to transport us back to a time when we felt secure and had no worries other than arguing with our parents over bedtime.

In times of stress, such as a recession where we’re worried about money etc, we want to escape and find a little corner of the world that’s safe. During WW2 cinemas experienced a huge boom as people flocked to them to watch elaborate musicals that let them escape for a couple of hours and fun with a happy ending.

It’s not just escapism that lures us back to comfort food. Food we eat can have an effect on our brains and encourage a release of the feel good endorphins: it can directly affect how we feel.

Neuropsychologists based at the University of Sussex studied the ‘nurturing emotions’ which some foods set off. They looked at ingredients consumers’ reactions to the smell, taste and colour of the dish (this was done by strapping electrodes to their heads!).

They then created a comfort index of food based on temperature, texture and ability to recreate a childhood feel. They found that the five dishes with the highest scores were beans on toast, followed by sausage and mash, tomato soup, chicken and mushroom pie and then macaroni cheese…. I would ask where the chocolate, ice-cream and Angel Delight was, but as this research was funded by Heinz, I won’t!

Suffice to say, comfort foods can be good for us, but only in moderation. So don’t spend your whole time justifying eating comfort food or you will only end up feeling uncomfortable!

Feel like indulging your comfort cravings? Go on, you know you want to...

>> Try our left over potato cakes
>> Mars Bar cookies
>> Very dangerous chocolate mug cake
Bubble and Squeak

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