I recently had that moment, the one where you want comfort food. It had been a rotten day, a lot of things had come up that meant more work for me, and I was tired because I hadn’t slept well. Then homemade mac and cheese popped into my head.
So I LOVE cavatappi with a mix of cheeses and cream and little bits of ham or bacon. That is, to me at least, the best of all comfort foods. And I make it from scratch. It is one of the few things I still really enjoy cooking from start to finish anymore.
In an effort to eat healthier, I decided to try Banza, it’s a high fiber, high protein pasta made of chickpeas. Yes, chickpeas, you heard me right. I figured at worst it would taste like chickpeas, which I don’t hate, so I should just go ahead and make it. Don’t ask me why I had to use two boxes. I just can’t seem to cook small amounts of comfort food.
As the pasta was cooking and I was anxiously hovering over it like it might explode if I didn’t get the timing perfect, I tuned out for a minute and thought about what cooking comfort food really means to me. Yes, it is a way to literally and metaphorically ‘feed’ myself and my loved ones. It is also a way to express my love for others because I spend the time to make something delicious and I make it instead of buying it (not that comfort food can’t be bought, it’s just part of the pleasure of this particular dish that I make it myself).
It turns out it isn’t the food that is the big part of the process at all, it’s the time and effort that goes into it when I’m cooking for others. However, and this is where my brain hit a wall, when I’m cooking for myself, it’s the food. That was an interesting turn of events. I had to stop and think about why the food itself wasn’t the important part for my loved ones like it was for me.
I’m still not really sure why putting effort into something doesn’t feel like it matters when it’s just me as opposed to putting in effort and work when it is someone else. If I stop and think about it, I think one of the reasons might be that I see the effort for someone else as being a sign I love them while the effort of cooking is just work when I’m cooking for myself but the outcome, the really tasty outcome, is something I can eat. Does that make sense? I don’t think it actually does. Maybe it’s me, but it sounds like I’m telling myself putting in an effort for someone else’s pleasure and joy is more important, or at least more significant, than doing the same thing for myself.
Well that’s just disturbing.
When did doing things for others ostensibly become more important than doing things for myself? I’d say it was a lifelong issue, but it definitely got more pronounced as I got older and started college and got my first job. I was putting in so much effort to differentiate myself from my peers, my competitors, other job applicants, etc. that I learned to put in more and more effort for others. But to find the time for that, I had to take it from somewhere else. Apparently, I took it from myself without even realizing it.
When you stop and think about it, it probably isn’t uncommon to learn that as a newly minted adult. What I currently take exception to, several decades later, is that it became a habit that I never stopped.
Also, just as an aside, I learned that I don’t exactly love chickpea pasta; it wasn’t the right consistency for a good Mac and cheese. I think it would be fine mixed in with a nice Bolognese sauce, but next time I’ll just accept the carbs and stop trying to make my favorite comfort food healthier.