Sunday Inspiration

Eating Emotionally during COVID-19

I have always loved cooking shows! These days during COVID lock-down, watching cooking shows might be a waistline saving alternative to baking bread.

As a young teenager, I recall watching Julia Child prepare a Crepe Suzette, complete with the flambé and I wondered if it was as tasty as my mother’s Polish version, Nalesniki. I would look forward to watching a funny show called The Galloping Gourmet.  I could taste the food that the host had prepared just by watching the facial expression he made when eating his creation.

It is said that we eat with our 5 senses but we also eat with our emotions. Just thinking about mother’s baked ham can open the floodgates to thoughts of the last time we ate with her, or the fight we had with our brother-in-law last Easter!  Memories of holidays, vacations and even everyday activities with our families are often made more poignant when we think of the foods we shared and how they made us feel.

COVID-19 and the challenge of social distancing is presenting all sorts of emotions. Even though we know that the restrictions placed on us by the government are to keep us safe, we are sad, mad or lonely because our freedoms have been curtailed. We are scared for our health and the health of our loved ones. We are anxious about our future and our finances. And, we might be getting on each other’s nerves and blowing up over trivial things like a messy kitchen or the excess noise from the child with too much pent-up energy.  Food seems to be helping us work our way through these emotions however; we are baking so much bread there are flour and yeast shortages and we are getting very creative with the items in our pantries.

My college aged daughter is at home for the remainder of her senior year. Kateri was raised on the Serenity Prayer and although she is missing her friends, struggling through Zoom lessons, and her Notre Dame Commencement will he held online, it appeared to me that she was accepting those things she has no power to change. Having her home and unable to attend Culinary labs myself, I decided to cook all sorts of new dishes with interesting spices and ingredients. I thought she would appreciate something unlike the options in the school cafeteria! This young woman, who typically shares feedback in a most caring way, picked on every detail and made it crystal clear what she did not like.

As I thought about why she responded this way, I realized she had been doing a pretty good job of masking her true emotions. Even though she appeared to be taking the restrictions in stride, she was in pain. Her true feelings were making themselves apparent in the way she was reacting to my cooking. She needed food that brought her comfort, not excitement!

So, I went back to foods that were more familiar. The dishes she loved and longed for while away at college, dishes that made her recall a time when everything was normal, and the future was something to look forward to. And this made me feel better too. Even though I love what I am learning in Culinary School, sometimes you just feel more comfortable cooking and eating foods that are tried and true, more familiar and as comfortable as that pair of yoga pants you are wearing day after day until this crisis is over!

And together, we did get more creative for our Easter dessert this year. Check out our plated dessert… a naked carrot cake with a touch of cream cheese icing, butter pecan ice cream on Gingersnap cookie crumbs with a caramel sauce and pecan garnish.

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