Words: Mallory Legg
Heartbreak: it is all-encompassing, gut-wrenching, skin-crawling, agonizing pain. It's what feels like the end of the world. In the movies, women seem to cope with their average ex-boyfriend's disappearing acts with the classics: pints of ice cream and boxes of chocolates. Is it just me and my scepticism thinking that this could be a cinematic ploy to stereotype women as helpless creatures of habit without men? Immediately slipping into pathetic pits of despair, drowning in calories and carbs due to said man's swift departure? Or might I hold a sly resentment for the fact that part of this portrayal feels true: after all, food is medicine, and I’d be lying in saying that it wasn’t the first thing that I’ve turned to during heartbreak.
The simple truth is that this long-standing image of women and food post-breakup can be traced back to our very evolution. In our ancestral environment, the abandonment of a partner would lead to a scarcity in a woman's food supply, meaning that hoarding food as well as gaining weight would prove advantageous for despondent individuals. As time goes on, our habits have become less powerful and while many women do tend to spend a few days with a pint of ice cream on hand, weight gain is not necessarily a part of the process anymore. Regardless, the phenomenon is obvious enough to spark resonance, so obvious that the Japanese have coined it ‘kuchisabishii’ which roughly translates to ‘lonely mouth’. The French have ‘manger ses émotions’ or ‘eating one's emotions’. And the Germans have ‘kummerspeck’, which literally translates to ‘grief bacon’. So it seems that turning to food for solace is so universal that the art of language is still finding the right words for it. So let's dive into the best comfort food to choose when you may be feeling a bit blue.
On Comfort and Cooking
Pasta - everyone's favourite comfort food
Personally, if there is one thing that has always been by my side, through thick and thin, contentment or anguish, it has been cooking. The instant gratification that is awarded after a period of time spent honed in, focused on nothing but what is in your direct frame of sight; the outside world completely lost with the smoky and savoury notes of your own accomplishments filling the comfort of your own environment. It is special, it is creative but it is daunting and intimidating, everyone needs a little guidance. That is where Tieghan comes in. Half Baked Harvest, a blog founded in 2012 by Tieghan Gerard, is one that I consistently go to for recipes and inspiration. To put it simply, this page is my love language. Often, in times when I am craving some sort of comfort, I go directly to her and wander around until I find something I know will heal. Cider braised short ribs with caramelized onion, perhaps. Rosemary butter mushroom cheese ravioli. Sunday bolognese. Herby tomato soup with melted brie crostini. Comfort foods are known to trigger happy memories. Cooking is sensory, it's immersive, and Half Baked Harvest is there whether you are a talented chef or whether you are feeling rather hopeless on the matter. There is something for anyone and I can assure you, there is some sort of spark on that website that could speak to anyone in any situation.
It is time to start loading up on the Tofu for that extra Serotonin
Realistically, there is science behind the question of ‘how do I make myself feel better’? Sometimes, it is up to you to take that extra step to prioritize your own health and wellness. Serotonin is a neurochemical you can target and regulate through food choices. Metaphorically, Serotonin is another way to take back control. Foods like cheese, eggs, salmon, and tofu are all foods that contain tryptophan which is directly linked to serotonin increase, resulting in a stabilized mood and better sleeping patterns. As far as recipes go, a Crispy Honey Ginger Salmon Rice-Bowl could be a nice place to start. A mouthful, I know, but I am not kidding when I say that I swore by this recipe for an entire summer. Or get both cheese and eggs in your breakfast with Turkish Eggs, which have become a major staple for me, partnered with Chile Butter and Whipped Feta. Or just resort to the simple acts of leaving a bowl of nuts around your flat or subbing meat for tofu in your next Deliveroo. It is all about the small sacrifices that lead to worthy results.
Try growing your own Kefir for a sure-fire way to help your heartbreak
I am sure we’ve all heard the word ‘probiotic’ at some point and, if you are anything like me, you probably did not bat an eyelid. But the reality is, the stuff really does wonders for the microbiome that is our bodies. The simplest way to consume probiotics is things like yoghurt (hint, hint: have Turkish Eggs for breakfast), kombucha, and kimchi: easy things to keep in the fridge, front, and centre just to remind you. Oh, and one more thing: Kefir.
I was introduced to Kefir by a friend of mine last October… post-breakup. She grows her own kefir and takes it like a shot every day. A real commitment, one, at that point, that I could not make. Nonetheless, I took the overarching concept of Kefir seriously, I mean, the word literally translates to ‘feel good’. It aids in digestion, metabolism, the immune system, muscle mass, and energy levels. It goes straight to your gut which goes straight to your head. So when I saw it in Sainsbury's, I committed. Biotiful is the brand and it's been a constant in my fridge for the past few weeks. You don’t feel it right away, but if you really stick to the promises that you make to yourself and have a bit every morning, you might start to feel your feet become a little lighter and the days become a little longer. To me, that is enough to be worth it.
I know this isn't necessarily healthy advice, but it's my advice. Eat the pint of ice cream, order the Deliveroo, curl up in bed with a big bowl of soup, then pick yourself up and try again. Have a vodka soda because it's hydrating and you won't feel terribly hungover in the morning. Nip to your closest gastro (we have a brilliant guide right here to gastropubs) to share a plate with somebody who hasn't broken your heart nor have they ruined all of your favourite meals. Find new signature dishes, and share them with new supporting actors and actresses that feature in your poeticized coming-of-age film where the only main character is yourself. Eventually, there will be no more heartbreak chocolate boxes or Tom Odell ballads dominating your score. And in time, what you'll end up with is bottomless drinks with two straws, infinite plates with two forks, and perhaps a kefir addiction.