The concept of sorrow is not quite as foreign as it once was, our youth long since left behind due to one hardship in our lives or another. We move through cycles of poor mental health, of accepting our circumstances and learning to heal. We eat and we reflect and we find a way to move forward. We seek out comfort the way we always do, in loved ones and in food.
Making food and sharing meals with others, whether that means catching up over a simple dinner or eating at a massive celebration, is believed to lead to a happier and healthier life. Food brings us together, and here are five ways it can benefit you.
1. It lets us stay connected.
A sit-down dinner or even an ice cream run allows us to talk and catch up with our friends and family members and check in on how they are doing. It’s important to keep in touch with the people in your life, especially if you’re busy. It gives us a safe space to talk about our days, our ups and downs, our fears and anxieties, our joys and successes. Sharing a meal together is also a great way to maintain our relationships. It can be highly beneficial to have close people in your life to lean on throughout life’s challenges. Connectedness with the people we surround ourselves with highly benefits our well-being, so be sure to take a break from your busy routine and enjoy a meal with somebody.
Spinach Artichoke Pizza
Fresh mozzarella or ricotta
Canned artichoke hearts
Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to the highest setting, making sure to allow the oven to heat up for at least an hour. Stretch out pizza dough to desired thickness and spoon on sauce. Place some torn mozzarella, artichokes and spinach as desired. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
2. It allows us to learn about food.
Sharing a family recipe with a friend or trying out a new recipe together is a great way to learn about food. Learning new things helps bring people together by encouraging them to start a conversation about food and interact with each other. Making food with others is also a great opportunity to get the creative juices flowing and broaden our scope of what we can achieve with simple ingredients. By cooking and eating together, you learn more about the history of the dish you’re making and simply get to enjoy your time with each other.
Garlic Chicken Bowtie Pasta
1 whole yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 whole red bell pepper, sliced
4 cups spinach
3 zucchinis, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Cook your pasta according to package instructions. Drain thoroughly and set aside. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized pan on high heat and cook both bell peppers and three zucchinis for two minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside when done. In the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and cook the chicken breasts with the minced garlic on medium heat for 10 minutes on each side, or until the edges are opaque. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slice cooked chicken into one-inch pieces. Place everything back into the pan on low heat, and add the spinach. Add a half cup of water to the pan while mixing everything slowly.Top with parmesan cheese.
3. We can share our culture.
Culture is a big part of food and food is a big part of many cultures. You can eat traditional dishes from your own culture with your family and learn about your own heritage through passed-down recipes within your own family. Another way to bring people together through food and shared culture is by sharing a cultural dish from your family with your friends. Not only does cultural expression through food allow us to be exposed to new flavors, but it also gives us an understanding of how other cultures may deviate from our own in their cuisines. By eating together, you can become more aware of each other’s cultural background and the food that comes with it.
Arroz con Leche
2 cups water
1 cup rice
1 cinnamon stick
½ can condensed milk
½ can evaporated milk
Cook the rice in water along with your cinnamon stick. Once boiling, lower the heat and let cook for another 10 minutes or until your rice has softened. Add your evaporated and condensed milk, using less of the condensed milk if the sweetness is too overpowering. Let simmer until the mixture has a pudding-like consistency. Serve in a mug, sprinkling ground cinnamon over the top for added flavor.
4. We live longer.
Sharing meals with the people you love leads to a longer lifespan because doing so gives you a strong connection with the people in your community. While sharing a meal or cooking with someone you love may seem small in the big scheme of things, moments like these are necessary in increasing our mental well-being. According to the Mental Health Organization, a 2014 study found that eating well is associated with mental well-being, as one’s poor diet and overall physical health correlate with the state of their mental health. Of course, eating healthy is super important, but having emotional support from those around you is vital for living a healthy, long life.
Peach Mango Smoothie
1 cup peaches
1 cup mangoes
1 cup orange juice
¼ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. ginger
Add ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add as much or as little ice depending on your temperature preference.
5. It gives us comfort.
When you’re feeling down, what’s better than talking about it to your friends or family while eating some delicious food? Sharing food with a friend during times of trouble not only nourishes our bodies but also our souls. Sometimes all we need is a meal that just hits the spot and takes us away from any emotional turmoil we’re having, and it’s really comforting to have someone to share that meal with.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 cup diced onion
½ cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
Heat and stir butter and flour together in a saucepan over medium heat until slightly golden. Whisk in the chicken stock, and then add in the chopped broccoli, diced onion and heavy cream. Add in shredded cheddar cheese when the onions are tender and remove the saucepan from the heat when the mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat and serve in a bowl.
Food helps us find our way closer to each other, as we gather together to prepare a meal and sit down for dinner. In these moments of uncertainty, it is the familiar feeling food brings that offers the most comfort.