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Mom’s spaghetti and why certain dishes make us feel so good

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When you think of your favorite home cooked meal, what does it make you think of?  What feeling comes over you when you dream of your favorite dish? Your mom’s warm satisfying chicken noodle soup on a cold day? Or your grandma’s famous gooey chocolate chip cookies after a filling dinner?

This has been a fascinating question  and the answers change with different people across the country- even here at Canfield High School. So, I asked a number of people about this topic: “What is your favorite meal that your mom makes and how does that meal make you feel?”

For example, I asked these questions to senior Ben Shapiro, and he responded, “Oh my mom’s T-Bone steak and a side of her cheesy potatoes.” He continued, “ When I find out that my mom is making that a certain warm and fuzzy feeling comes across me that I just can’t explain.”

I also asked my teacher Mr. Jennings about his mom’s baked beans that he absolutely loves.  After my question, he spent a very long time contemplating about those beans. Finally, he said, “There is so many delicious things my mother makes, but it would have to be her baked beans. She makes for every special gathering.”

Both Ben’s and Mr. Jennings’s examples are both very credible, but in the case of my mother who creates my favorite meals, her Bolognese Sauce, my grandmother’s Lebanese stuffed grape leaves were her favorite as a child.

My mother said, “Now when I just think of those I cannot stop for the rest of the day without getting my fix.”  She continued, “Food has always been the thing that my family uses to show love, support, comfort and congratulations.”

For my mother, how food makes you feel took an unusual turn for her in 2008.  My mother was diagnosed with Celiac Disease- an autoimmune disorder where she is not able to eat and process gluten- the protein in wheat, rye, and barley.  Now some of the food memories that evoke feelings in her are now just memories. Some of her other favorites like homemade bread are just distant thoughts. But those memories still bring the same happy and comforting feelings- just without the taste.

So we know that food evokes special feelings that are tied to the food experiences of our past.  But is there science behind these feelings? According to the June 29, 2015 article in Time Magazine titled “The Science of Why You Crave Comfort Food,” author Alexandra Sifferlin wrote, “It makes intuitive sense that positive experiences with a given food could influence our craving for it later on, but recent research also suggests something else is at play, too: comfort foods remind us of our social ties, which means they may help us feel less lonesome when we feel isolated.”  

So basically, when we eat the comfort food of our lives, it is like our loved ones are sitting there with us.

So the next time you sit and eat your big bowl of mac n’cheese, or that wonderful Sunday roast with mashed potatoes, take in the aromas and the memories, and store them up for when you are sad and alone and need some company.  Your food memories will carry you through.

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Mom’s spaghetti and why certain dishes make us feel so good