What is it about food that makes it absolutely essential on every happy occasion? Has there been any birthday that has been celebrated without a cake? Or for that matter any wedding that has been commenced without a lavish spread of gourmet delicacies? Or any party that has been organised without a promise of chicken burgers, tikkas, or whatever else gets you going?
Food is special and it makes me happy. My mother was the first one to notice it. Of course, I didn’t quite agree with her about it for a while, but then I started to notice the trend myself. If I had had a hard day at work, there was only one cure. Food. If I had had a fight with my friend, I needed only food to cheer me up. I noticed similar trends for other incidents, such as the time I lost my wallet, and also the other time, when I did nothing. I only wanted food. It made me happy. Is it true that one can really eat their way to happiness?
Yummy in your tummy.
I believe so. Especially if your feelings towards food are violently strong. For example, when someone offers you some dessert after a meal, do your legs start shaking and palms get a little sweaty? Do you find your pulse quickening a little as you walk through the frozen treats aisle at the grocery store? Is there an adrenaline rush as you dig through the ice cream shelf like an Eskimo hunter, searching for that special flavour? You suffer frostbite. Maybe you are even willing to lose a finger in order to find the right one, the cherished one. At last, you tear off the lid and there it is—that perfect, unblemished surface of silky pleasure. You dig right in.
If you have experienced all of the above emotions at some point, then you, my friend, are just the person I have been looking for. We belong to a group of people who believe that there is some truth in the saying “sleep ’til you’re hungry, eat ’til you’re sleepy” and our only true friend is food.
As kids, we are taught that just like plants, we eat food to sustain ourselves. From the food we eat, we derive macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that our bodies use for fuel and other essential functions. We also get vitamins and other nutrients from food that our bodies can’t process but still require. Certainly, we need food, but why does food make us happy when we eat it?
Scientifically speaking, we could dig deeper into this and find out that happiness and food are really highly connected. From the pleasure of cooking and eating to the changes in brain chemistry that food can bring about, many people use food to make themselves happier. It has also been seen that eating is one of the greatest sensual pleasures in life. I mean, tucking into a juicy piece of KFC chicken or a delicious bowl of ice cream after a hard day can really make life seem worthwhile.
Of course, there have been many studies that aim to understand the connection between food and mood. If there is one thing that man has confidently substantiated through research, it is that the most common of all aphrodisiacs, chocolate, is one of the most popular cravings fuelled by sadness.
Science, however, may not be able to explain the behaviour of my mother’s aunt and uncle, who visited us recently. Married for 45 years, they are a childless couple that certainly lives to eat and not the other way round. The old couple has found food to be their (somewhat) calling in life. Every morning, while being served breakfast, instead of discussing the newspaper headlines, the two find it almost imperative to discuss the menu for lunch. At lunch, they believe one must decide beforehand what may be the menu for dinner, just in case there might arise the urgent need of an ingredient that may not be available later in the local market. Do not be fooled by their over-preparedness. It is merely their passion and the only ‘activity’ that the now-retired couple find rather joyful.
Studies and research only make things more complicated. How many mothers actually think about science before they advise their daughters to feed their husbands well? If they know one thing, it is that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. For them, the equation is simple: Good Food + Happy Man = Happy Marriage.
So, while many may think that bingeing on food to derive happiness may be blasphemous, there are those who would suggest far worse. For example, I happened to mention my undying love for food to a friend, who conveniently concluded that I most definitely was obsessed or even addicted to ‘comfort food’. Sure, comfort food is generally a name for food people eat when they are feeling unhappy. Usually, many say that this food isn’t good for you and will only make you feel better very temporarily. So what? As long it’s a friend I’m looking for and food gladly stepped in to be one, does it matter that the duration of the pleasure lasts only a few minutes?
I love food and food loves me and if there is such a thing as unconditional and selfless love, it is this. So, the next time you bite into that cheesy, greasy, but delectable pepperoni pizza that always knows how to put a smile on your face, remember to smile back. After all, when all hope was lost and one couldn’t see the light on the other side of the tunnel, our dear ol’ pal stuck around to make things better.