Bake Two and Call Me in the Morning
By: Michael K. Barry
Take a moment to reflect back on your childhood.
Do you remember a time when you were suffering from the worst flu you have ever experienced? Nothing could pull you from the dismal hell of a stuffy nose, nausea, and the high fever that gave you chills and body aches.
The mere thought of feeling anything but awful seemed foreign and unattainable.
All of a sudden, a wonderful scent sweeps across your nose from your kitchen. You can barely smell it through your congestion, but the aroma is still there.
A smile occupies your face for the first time in what seems an eternity. Before the warm, comforting chicken soup even crosses your lips, you can feel the fog lifting from your nose. The future doesn’t seem so bleak after all.
I can’t say for sure where, when, or how, chicken soup became the ultimate panacea, but before man had a language with which to write prescriptions, food has been used as medicine, and why not?
It is true that many natural herbs and plants can cure or treat certain maladies. And, some foods contain essential nutrients to aid in the body’s defense against alien invaders known as germs.
Above it all, I have to say: it all comes down to how food makes us feel.
We can all recall that one meal; the one meal that our mom would make that would bring us home from the park early. The one meal we would choose over our friends; the one meal which seemed to brighten our day, no matter how gloomy we became from our pre-teen angst. Who can forget the Hollywood archetype of the jilted lover, crying over a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream?
I believe, when Hippocrates spoke his immortal words, “Let food be thy medicine,” he wasn’t talking about curing malaria or cancer. He was talking about curing what ails the soul.
Food makes us feel good. No matter what we are going through, food will always be there for us.
In Ancient Greece, food was considered to be an offering to the gods, conveyed via your stomach. Your malady was due to the fury of a snubbed divinity and the only way to appease it was to enjoy a nice meal. Alright--this may not be true, but I would certainly sacrifice a plate of beef stroganoff if it would placate an angry deity.
In modern days, remedial food is simply referred to as comfort food. Mom’s meatloaf, Grandma’s rack of lamb, and Dad’s chili are all foods that we turn to when things just aren’t going as we planned. This "things" can be from environmental disturbances like heavy traffic on the way home, or unforeseen setbacks from an onset of the sniffles right before our big presentation, making all of your “N’s” sound like “D’s.”
The world is full of these problems, regardless of how small they may be, and the one thing that we seem to turn to, universally, to ease our troubles isn’t a stiff drink, a quick cigarette, or the consumption of an illegal or illicit substance, it is the warm (or cold as applicable) embrace of our favorite foods.
We are lucky to live in America, a country where food is rather plentiful. I honestly believe that much of the stress being caused by the economic crisis engulfing us at the moment is due to some people’s inability to attain their favorite comfort food. “If only I could have a crock pot full of slow-braised, succulent, country-style ribs,” they cry from the rooftops, “everything would be OK!” This is truly the mindset we have adopted. Like the Greeks of old, gallivanting about in their hedonistic ways, leaving the world’s troubles behind, hidden behind a mound of edible happiness, we use food to cure the most troubling of maladies, the ones we create in our own minds.
Maybe one day we will evolve beyond the need for temporary happiness in the f