Sugaring the pill,can I tempt you with a doughnut?
Is it coming up Easter or is it just me, but the chocolate shelves in any supermarket I have visited recently have been pretty much bare? Comfort foods certainly seem to
have flourished during the pandemic.Y ou are well lucky if you can lay your hands on a chocolate button.
In the 1964 film Mary Poppins sang , “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down / In a most delightful way.” Before Nanny Andrews first sang this classic, its songwriter found inspiration for the iconic “Mary Poppins” tune in an unlikely place. The late Robert B. Sherman wrote it with his brother, Richard. Robert's son, Jeffrey, now 63, said that it was telling his father about getting the polio vaccine, orally (with sugar ) as a child that sparked the lyrics for the famous song. For all you anti vaxxers out there back in the day we all dutifully lined up for our vaccines. Polio, Dyptheria, Whooping cough, Measles, Mumps. Yes, you name it there was a vaccine for it, and it was mandatory so come on, dont be silly billies, help us all get back to some semblance of normal. I read last week that as an incentive American brand Krispy Kreme followed nanny’s edict, offering all Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 a free glazed doughnut daily for the rest of the year. And oh dear, it gets worse, you can buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Portugal. You didn´t hear it from me, OK.
It seems vaccines are scarce but treats are plentiful. Booking slots to sort out bureaucratic problems at your local Social Security office may well be snapped up as fast as we are locked down again. I frequently fail to resist the temptation of sugar laden treats, if I can lay my greedy paws on them, often coming home from the now weekly shop with Toblerone, Lindor, Ferrero Rocher and After eight in my tote.
A delicious alternative from Lidl. Drinks with no added sugar or artificial ingredients
Before the pandemic, food and drink groups were on a self-interested path towards making more virtuous products, removing sugar and other artificial ingredients. They may well be having second thoughts about this now? It is understandable that people have done a lot of comfort eating in the past year, from mac and cheese to takeaway pizzas and burgers. Many needed a dose of pleasure in the face of anxiety, loneliness and stress; “Give me yesterday’s Bread, this Day’s Flesh, and last Year’s Cider.” Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote, his character Sancho Panza speaking to Dapple, his ass. Well maybe thats a bit of an extreme example, I dont think I personally would get much comfort from yesterdays bread and some old cider, but you know what I mean.
Comfort food is not an illusion, eating really can trigger feelings of psychological relief. Nigella must get such relief from those midnight trips to her fridge to snack on that always available pigs trotter. If she was stressed before the binge, perhaps from the fear of gaining weight, she certainly seems to arrive at our television screens appearing to have come out of the experience coping with stress more calmly. Of course we resort to munching when things get too much. Some of this dependence however may fade as we escape from lockdown and are allowed to experience a variety of things, and yes experience live theatre again. Bad habits acquired over months at home, that caused many of us to acquire unwanted kilos, will be hard to break I grant you, but just think how much weight those Americans will put on with that extra doughnut a day. The chances of us slimming down again will depend on which type of comfort the food provides, the taste or what it conjures. All my life I have been a serial snacker and its one hard habit to break. Im up there with Nigella on her frequent trips to the fridge in the middle of the night. I think it stems from childhood and the temptation of all those white pudding basins in the fridge containing mums delicious leftovers. Recipes such as brownies, pastas or chicken soup may not be healthy, but are especially satisfying because of their association with childhood and familial reassurance. They provide consolations that reach beyond enjoyment to emotional sustenance.
I feel like one of those those laboratory rats cooped up in a small space pedalling that wheel in what seems a never ending orbit round confinement. These poor unsuspecting rodents have been proven to behave in a less anxious or depressed manner when given “palatable comfort food”. Sound familiar? The difference is they were not eating high-fat lard and sucrose because it tastes like the meals their granny used to make. There is visceral pleasure in consuming chocolate, ice-cream and snacks that are made to be distracting and indulgent. It is fine in moderation.... and our pandemic binging will leave no permanent damage if we return to moderation and comfort no longer has to come in a packet. The phrase "comfort food" was first coined in the Palm Beach Post in 1966 when it carried a article headlined “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’.” Financial uncertainty and cramped conditions aside, Mary Poppins was right, a spoonful of sugar is delightful. But too many spoonfuls, although easing anxiety, are not healthy. That quantum of nutritional solace is no comfort at all.