Upon hearing difficult news, we instinctively want to comfort. It’s a logical response since the word comfort means a relief from sorrow and pain. Our family experience and cultural heritage shape the ways in which we comfort. Often the women in our families, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, used some form of food for consolation.
It seems only natural that when we look to extend comfort, we most often think in terms of food. And the foods we choose tend to be the very foods that our families used to console us. Sometimes I think it’s not just the taste that we find comforting; it’s following the same rituals our loved ones used when preparing these foods.
For my family, it’s chicken soup. It’s what each of us craves when sick or needing sympathy. It’s the most nurturing of foods; the warmth and smell while the soup simmers brings solace while the soup itself has healing properties. Served with matzo balls, it’s the ultimate in comfort.
My friend makes custard when anyone in her circle needs some help. After all, her mom always made it for her. Another friend bakes her mom’s creamy noodle pudding. She made it for me during a rough patch and told me how just the smell of it baking brought her comfort. Her mom’s noodle pudding gave me much needed support and I now make it all the time.
My mom took a different approach. Her prowess was as a baker so she offered two comforting alternatives; a rich date and nut bread and chocolate chip banana bread. Her friends knew to expect one when returning home from the hospital or while recuperating from a loss. I make these breads often and the wonderful smells from my oven always invoke her comforting presence.
It makes sense to prepare food for someone who is ill, going through treatments, or dealing with the loss of a loved one. When feeling hurt or lost, it’s hard to think, no less plan and prepare meals. And when we’re feeling so alone, how comforting to know that someone else is nurturing us and we’re really not alone.
So if your first instinct when hearing difficult news is to head to the kitchen, it’s a good one.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
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