Thursday, April 1, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Cookie Comfort

Janet here: While therapists and studies regularly point out how emotional eating is bad for you, it seems pretty clear to me that eating and emotions are inextricably and impossibly intermixed. Starting with a mother breastfeeding her baby, whose only needs initially are to be fed and held and protected — all of which are satisfied with the food she is sucking down — food not only nourishes us physically but emotionally as well.

Of course, we all get off the path of that original purity pretty quickly. Our parents withhold dessert for "bad" behavior, we give ourselves a "treat" to make us feel better when something bad (or good) happens — the list is endless and makes our relationships with food almost universally complicated, and that's without adding social stuff like stick-thin models and movies extolling only young thin bodies, etc.

But it was interesting to me and Rachel that two weeks ago we both literally woke up and said, "Today I want to make cookies." I know that baking cookies is something I regularly turn to when I need a little comfort. The kitchen immediately becomes a cozy haven from life's nuttiness as I blend the batter, methodically line up the dough, and pull the pans in and out of the oven. I love the smell in the house as cookies bake. And of course, I love how happy everyone is when they discover cookies are in the works and/or that a batch has just come out of the oven. Oh, yes, and I also like to eat them. One of the few (and I mean few) things I don't like about summer is that it's usually too warm to bake cookies so I'm usually on hiatus until the fall. But come that first cool day, there's nothing better than baking up a new batch. Everything feels good.

Rachel here: I love that my mom and I both woke up with cookies on the brain on the same morning 3000 miles apart from each other. I wonder how much of my love of baking cookies is tied to the feelings I associated with baking with my mom when I was growing up. I remember feeling special when we baked together, like I had been invited into this cozy little kitchen bubble and been made privy to an arena that I otherwise viewed as hers (since she did all of the cooking). My brother G helped sometimes (S was too little or not even born during this era), but mostly I recall getting to spend time with my mom that felt like it was ours. Plus, there were the cookies and the sitting at the kitchen table together to nibble from the first batch just as soon as they were cool enough while the second batch baked. My mother seemed so competent to me, absent measuring accoutrements for the most part and with the strength to cream butter and sugar that far surpassed my childish arms'. I figured I would never know how much salt was called for, or vanilla, the way my mom just knew. I would dutifully read from the recipe while she dutifully ignored it, a feat which always felt a little dangerous to me and which left me feeling a little bit like I was scrambling to keep up. I loved everything about those weekend afternoons baking cookies with my mom, though. I loved the mess inevitably made with the pouring of flour and sugar; I loved the wooden mixing bowl the dough would come together in; I loved the nearly sick feeling in my stomach when we were done from having tasted the batter, the chocolate chips AND the cookies. When I bake cookies now, these feelings and sensations are conjured vividly for me and, without fail, I am left feeling a whole lot of love for my mom, even if its from 3000 miles away.

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