02 August 2013

book musings: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

The Lower Mainland's typical weather has returned (although probably only for the weekend). There are clouds, and there is rain. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to hear rain pouring down. I ventured out this morning, sans jacket or umbrella, to get a few ingredients for dinner. My dinner plans were inspired partly by the weather, and partly by a section in a book I just read.

The book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, discusses a variety of ways we tend to overeat, examining the causes behind our actions and suggesting ways that we can actively change our poor eating habits. He's a fan of the "eat food you enjoy and eat lots of vegetables, but just don't overdo it" attitude, which is pleasantly refreshing after reading a few bits and pieces about the Paleo diet recently. Anyway, there's a section on comfort food. His studies have shown that not all comfort food is automatically unhealthy, and that comfort food can be established in adult life, as well as during childhood. Of course, I immediately started thinking about my own comfort foods and why I associated positive feelings with them.

Tea is a big one. Hot black Assam tea with milk. I've liked tea most of my life, but I really got into it when I was working in a British tea room/import store the summer before I started university. When things were slow, the cook would make a pot of tea and, since she and many of my co-workers were British, it was usually black and usually she would add milk. It took a little time for me to appreciate the milk in the tea, since before that I had been a tea purist who rarely added anything to the drink, but I soon learned that with the dark, malty teas, milk brings out flavours that might be otherwise missed. It's a quick way to relax, and it's certainly not a high-calorie, high-fat comfort food, even if I decide to use half-and-half instead of milk. I've missed my favourite kinds of tea over the last nine months, because I've had to cut down on my caffeine intake, and most of the decaf versions of Assam that I've tried just haven't been all that great. Drinkable, yes. Really good? Not exactly. I've done some reading about caffeine and breast-feeding, and it looks like I should be able to get away with the caffeinated tea, providing it doesn't make Munchkin hyper-active.

Miso soup
 There are other comfort foods on my list. Miso soup, which has been wonderful at soothing my stomach during this pregnancy. Sushi, which I associate with J. and some of our earliest dates (he puts sushi on his comfort food list, too). Cafe au lait, though I'm not sure where that one came from. Ginger cookies, associated with my dad, although my mom makes them, too. Funny how a lot of these are more savoury or bitter, rather than sweet.

Another comfort food, best in the winter, is biscuits and gravy. That definitely falls onto the more unhealthy side of the comfort food spectrum. This was a meal that my family never had at home, but the retreat centre that we went to every year and that I later worked at would do biscuits and gravy as one of their breakfasts. Actually, when I worked there and was on breakfast duty, that was one of the meals I helped make. So once in a long while, we get some sausage, make the gravy, and bake biscuits. I haven't done that in ages (probably a year or two), and it sounds rather good right now, but it's probably best made after the baby's out, so I don't have to try to figure out the carb content of the gravy plus the biscuits.

However, a biscuit-centred comfort food that I am going to make, today, is tomato soup with biscuits. I'll toss in some whole-wheat flour to up the fibre content of the biscuits, and skip doing the tomato soup with milk like I usually do (we're almost out, anyway, and my back doesn't want me to lug home a four-litre right now). This was a family dinner when I was a kid, and it's special to me because biscuits were one of the first things I learned to bake on my own. After that, whenever we had tomato soup for dinner, I'd make the biscuits. I had the recipe memorized for a while, though I don't right now. I'm doing buttermilk biscuits this time because I'm also making chocolate buttermilk muffins to freeze so we'll have them after the baby's born. We don't have a deep-freeze, so I can't pre-make a bunch of things, but we do have room for a batch or two of muffins. They aren't exactly comfort food, but they are convenient and hopefully tasty (new recipe).

Anyone have some interesting comfort foods, or ones with great backstories?

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