One of the major tensions I see between foodie culture and the culture at large seems to be the role of food and emotion. Foodies openly profess a genuine affection for food as emotional sustenance, pleasure, and spiritual transcendence. In much health, fitness, and self-help writing, food and emotion has a negative connotation of “emotional eating.” And certainly, like any substance, food can become an unhealthy obsession in a variety of ways. Nearly everyone I know has a complex relationship to food, and these relationships are all valid and need to be honored.
I’ve been thinking of this lately, because several of my dear friends are facing challenging times, and I wish I could sweep away their suffering. And in some situations, there are real limits to what one can do, and so I find myself speaking the language of comfort through words, which seem to fail me at these times, and through food, a language of care and sustenance. A homecooked meal shared with friends creates a space to share the suffering and sustain the soul. A basket of homemade biscuits and jam communicates a moment of assuagement. Or so I hope.
This is the real meaning of comfort food, more so than the ubiquitous Ben and Jerry’s in the face of heartbreak, or my personal favorite, homemade mac and cheese on a day when the world seems an amalgam of the blues and what Holly Golightly calls “the mean reds.” I hope that when I speak food, others can sense my compassion, my desire to share their suffering and offer even a moment of comfort.