My kitchen floor is littered with the Trader Joe’s version of Cheerios – Joe O’s, in case you aren’t familiar. My son leans over the side of his high chair and watches them fall from his pincer grasp, one at a time. It bounces on the parquet floor, then settles somewhere within a three foot radius of his chair. Then he does it again, this time while chewing on his forefinger.
He has been up since 4:45am and it is only 8:30 now, but it feels like days since we woke up.
The organic-steamed-and-cubed-perfect-finger-food sweet potatoes caught fire in the microwave. For some reason they spark when I try to reheat them. After steaming and cubing them, I froze them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, then transferred them to plastic bags. (Yes, I still use plastic bags and am probably sowing the seeds for some kind of cancer that I may have been preventing by using organic sweet potatoes.) The pieces remaining uncharred were squished onto the tray of the high chair and into the crevices of the seat. I remind myself that there is nothing more therapeutic than cleaning out the seat of the high chair, if only for the wonder of what I will find.
My son clamped his mouth shut when I tried to feed him bananas and Greek yogurt. He violently whipped his face away when I approached him with the spoon. Out of desperation, I thought if he held the spoon himself and put it in his mouth he may remember that he likes bananas and yogurt, but alas, the gesture only resulted in yogurt embedded in the fleece in his guitar-patterned pajamas. That’s right. You wouldn’t think it to look at me: I’m hip. I’m hip, but I’m tired and ready to sell my child to the first bidder.
No, the only thing my eight-month-old son, who normally loves almost any and all food, will open his mouth for this morning is toast smeared with Nueske’s liver sausage. Much like the cat who is lying in wait in the kitchen doorway, waiting for something to her liking to hit the floor, my son insists on his own terms this morning.
I promise I have already taught him the word “no,” but I don’t even know what I would be saying ‘no’ to this morning. His first tooth is coming in any day now from his poor swollen bottom gums. He is inconsolable, but I never would have thought that a baby already had a comfort food – aside from the obvious pair. If liver sausage on toast is the only thing that will make it past his lips to fill his little stomach, then liver sausage it is. For both of us.
Liver sausage on toast is a food that takes me back to childhood and is just the right amount of protein to justify serving the fatty, salty spread to a toddler on a piece of wheat bread. In fact, during my pregnancy with the aforementioned son, liver sausage was the only meat product I could reliably stomach all the way through my third trimester, at least until my husband read an article suggesting that unless heated to the point of steaming pregnant women shouldn’t eat meat spreads. Then he hid the liver sausage from me in our vegetable-cum-beer drawer.
According to Psychology Today, just thinking about comfort foods, a.k.a., foods that have meaningful associations, can make people have better emotional well-being. Unfortunately, I’m willing to bet that for me and most people, merely thinking about my comfort food would be about as effective as losing weight while thinking about exercising…and simultaneously eating a cupcake. Furthermore, Dr. Deborah Serani, the author of the Psychology Today article, also seems to think that people most often have healthy comfort foods in mind, an argument an informal Facebook poll quickly contradicted. The most common responses included some combination of heavy carbohydrate and dairy product.
Psychological Science takes the notion of meaningful association a step further, suggesting that comfort foods connect us not only with a time or place, but with a person or people, an idea wholly supported by the fact that many included mention of a particular person with the comfort food of choice in my informal poll of family and friends.
Given theories proposed by each journal’s studies, perhaps what we can glean is that thinking about comfort foods often makes us feel better because we remember people who have been comforting at some point in our lives. Eating buttered noodles when I’m not feeling well makes me think of my mom preparing buttered noodles for me as a kid and is the next best thing to her showing up at my door with two-liter of flat 7 Up and a copy of The Birdcage – my go-to-sick-day movie.
While this conclusion can seem obvious enough, what really surprised me was realizing how early one can begin collecting comfort foods. So perhaps one day my son will be living on his own, you know, after graduating from Harvard and playing in the NBA and needing an emotional pick-me-up, will make himself a liver sausage and toast and think of his mom’s arms around him when he didn’t feel well in their little condo… Then again, maybe he was just being difficult this morning.