Without A Doubt
November 12, 2009
Most of us are familiar with the concept of comfort foods. Wikipedia defines comfort foods as familiar, simple foods that are usually home-cooked or eaten at informal restaurants.
They are foods that are often emotionally significant to a person or group of people and are sometimes related to pleasant associations of childhood. Mashed potatoes, meat loaf and chicken soup fall into the category of comfort foods.
Trust me, I have no problem with the concept of comfort foods. Near the top of the list of comfort foods for me are the pork chops that my wife prepares. Third are my wife’s scrambled eggs. On the right day, a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup hit the spot and the chili recipe developed by my daughter and I also approaches top-five status. But the top comfort food on my list will likely always be my mom’s chicken casserole.
When my father passed away recently, all of my family gathered in the Kansas farmhouse in which we were raised. For one of the lunches when it was basically my mom and the five of us children around the table, my mom prepared a chicken casserole. We made short work of that casserole, and I realized that it had been a comfort food for all of us.
It fit all of the criteria: It was home-cooked, delicious and touched an emotional chord within all of our beings. It just felt right to be sitting around a kitchen table that has seen the serving of more than 50,000 meals, eating something that evoked memories of an extraordinary amount of family interaction.
That table has seen a lot of problems solved, a lot of joys shared, a lot of sorrows washed away and a lot of victories. I don’t know if Mom planned it that way, but it was the perfect meal at the perfect time.
Comfort foods are great until they become too big a part of your problem-solving matrix or if your lifestyle goes from active to sedentary. Pretty soon, you hear people say things like, “He’s built for comfort and not for speed.”
I believe comfort activities can be an alternative to comfort foods. Those are the activities upon which you depend to bring you relaxation, time for thought and satisfaction. For me those activities are gardening, fix-it projects or walks with my dog.
There was a time when running filled that void, but creaky knees have relegated that activity to something else far removed from comfort. The wrong type of fix-it project can bring a level of frustration so if I really need a “comfort fix” I set myself up for success by taking on a project with a predictable outcome.
I like to pick activities that are affordable. Vacations to Mexican resorts are very comforting but not very sustainable on my income level. Weeding a flower bed brings satisfaction with virtually no cost. I like to pick activities that invigorate either my brain or my body. Mowing a lawn or splitting firewood fill that void because my mind can drift to numerous topics while my body is being exercised. I have to maintain just enough mental connection with my task to keep from walking out into the street or chopping off a toe.
Comfort activities are something that I would highly recommend. The first rule is that you pick your own comfort activity. Only you can define what brings you contentment. Don’t be afraid to take suggestions but, in the end, make your own choice. That is part of the self-actualization process that we all studied in high school psychology.
When I think of comfort activities I am reminded of one that my mom always had me exercise. Whenever I seemed flustered, bothered, hurried or harried my mother always told me to go wash my face, it would make me feel better.
I was generally a tidy little boy, so it wasn’t that I needed to scrub off the grime of the day. I think my mom knew that feeling the splash of cold water on my face and stepping back a minute from my problem would be just the elixir I needed to take on something from a different angle and with a new approach.
I still find myself splashing my face with cold water when I need to evaluate a problem and seek a solution. It is for me, a comfort activity.
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