Stop and Smell the Memories

Do you ever take a moment to stop and smell the memories? My tomato plants are covered in tomatoes so heavy they tipped the trellis over this morning. As I was setting them back up surrounded by the smell of the plants, I was reminded of gardening with my grandmother when I was small. There’s a strong connection between smell and memory. There’s a strong connection between memory and comfort. And there’s a strong connection between comfort and food.

Have you ever had a chance to stop and consider how smell and memory influence your food choices? Most of us don’t even have time to stop and smell the roses, much less the memories. But an awareness of our relationships to smell memory can be helpful with compliance when we need to follow a specific diet in order to be healthy.

A few years ago, a gluten-free bakery opened in my city. My response upon first visiting it was to feel disappointment that there was no yeasty smell in the air. For me, the joy of a bakery lies in the smells-yeast, coffee, cinnamon. The visuals are great too, but while I might be hesitant to eat an oddly shaped cut of meat or deformed looking vegetable, I’d never refuse a misshapen cookie or a torn piece of bread.

Much of the joy and comfort of cooking come from familiar aromas. The first time I cooked fresh green beans in my home, I remarked, “This is how this house should smell.” The house is over 100 years old. Somehow, the smell fit the hardwood floors, carved wood doors, transom windows, and 12-foot ceilings. And I knew it.

When smell is a reminder of family, comfort, and tradition, it can be especially compelling. That’s because smell goes directly to an olfactory bulb that’s connected to the amygdala where emotional processing occurs. All of those warm feelings can end up being connected to related smells.

The idea of giving up a certain food may trigger a feeling of loss or separation as if you’re giving up family or comfort. Knowing this up front can help inform your choices and give you enough insight to recognize and overcome emotional memory stumbling blocks.

And perhaps knowing this can help you process through a diagnosis of celiac disease, diabetes, IBS, or Crohn’s disease without feeling as though required dietary changes will be dire. You will quickly recognize that you can enjoy the warm memories associated with the scent of a cinnamon roll without actually eating one. This knowledge will increase your sense of power, confidence, and choice.

It may also mean you value your memories more because you take time to smell them.

Mid-Morning Pick-Me-Up Snack Fit For a President

By the time mid-morning rolls around, I’ll need a pick-me-up snack. I eat breakfast really early on holidays as well as regular days. Three to four hours later, I’m hungry. Snacking is common in the US. According to a study published in 2017, snacking increased from 1977 to 2012. While not everyone snacks in the morning, everyone has some favorite treats. Elected officials are no exception.
snack
In honor of President’s Day, let’s see what snacks are fit for high office. I live a few blocks from the governor’s mansion in my state where the previous governor enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich with a gin and tonic each afternoon when he got home. I know this because chefs love to share and I knew his chef.

US presidents have their favorite snacks as well. Their chefs love to share too!

Some of you may remember the jar of jelly beans Ronald Reagan kept on his desk as President. Before he ever reached the White House, Reagan used jelly beans to help him quit smoking. He chose a mini jelly bean flavored all the way through that was introduced by Herman Goelitz Candy Company in 1965.

When he took office as the governor of California in 1967, Reagan’s staff placed a standing order for monthly delivery of jelly beans from Goelitz. In 1976, the company introduced gourmet flavors like Very Cherry, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Lemon, Licorice, and Grape into the mini jelly bean line. They placed complimentary samples of the gourmet flavored beans called Jelly Belly into Reagan’s monthly order. He soon converted his entire order to Jelly Belly.

Reagan’s fondness for Jelly Belly was well known. When he died, it wasn’t uncommon for visitors to leave offerings of jelly beans at his library and gravesite.

Abraham Lincoln preferred gingerbread cookies. I can get on board with these as a snack. My grandmother used to keep them in her cookie jar when it wasn’t full of oatmeal raisin. I don’t know anyone who keeps a cookie jar full of homemade cookies now. Funny thing is, we rarely grabbed a cookie. We were too busy playing.

It’s not hard to appreciate a fondness for candy or cookies. It’s much more difficult to understand how someone could eat cottage cheese with ketchup on it. Apparently, that was a favorite snack for Richard Nixon. While it’s arguably healthier than jelly beans, I can’t get my mind around the taste. Some might say he lowered the bar in more ways than one.

Before his heart surgery, Bill Clinton liked to consume sweets and heavy foods like cinnamon rolls, cake, ribs, and enchiladas. And he was famous for jogging down Broadway to McDonald’s when he was governor of Arkansas.

President Obama’s preferences fall closer to mine – pistachios, almonds, chocolate roasted peanut protein bars, trail mix, and handmade chocolates. I could eat a handful of pistachios right now. I like them best roasted and salted whereas I prefer almonds and cashews raw.

I don’t know that I have presidential taste. It seems there’s not really such a thing. Just because you hold high office, doesn’t mean you have some sort of elevated preferences. In fact, with all the pressure that comes with the job, you’d most likely resort to whatever you find most comforting.

And now it’s time for a comforting snack for myself. Happy President’s Day!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579603/

https://americacomesalive.com/2017/11/11/ronald-reagans-jelly-beans/

https://www.jellybelly.com/?scid=scawd796498&utm_source=google&utm_medium=paid_search&utm_campaign=sidecar_paid_search_google&gclid=CjwKCAiAqaTjBRAdEiwAOdx9xl7Vb1eY02u9rjsMln9faUFLtW1zFldzYMfXIR5g9vt14QZ8jJOJ0hoC_oUQAvD_BwE

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1955&dat=19691203&id=258tAAAAIBAJ&sjid=YKAFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5155,1679604

https://www.washingtonian.com/2012/01/06/former-white-house-pastry-chef-recalls-bill-clintons-scary-appetite/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/top-five-gluten-free-summer-snacks-2016/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/safe-graze-snacks/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Five Rainy Day Comfort Foods

With wave after wave of rain falling this year, I want some rainy day comfort food on hand. What’s rainy day comfort food? That’s today’s exploration.
clouds
When I look outside and see a wall of clouds and soaking drizzle, I don’t immediately think ahhh I want a grilled steak. I don’t feel much like eating a salad either. A baked potato, on the other hand, sounds good. Macaroni and cheese sounds even better. Cozy, comforting food preferences seem to accompany gloomy days. But when heat and rain arrive together, my snuggly, comfort food preferences are slightly different than during a winter snow storm.

So, what are my top five comfort food choices for rainy summer days?

Grilled cheese and tomato juice
While hot soup may not sound good on a warm day, a grilled sandwich can still be appealing. In the summer, I like to top gluten-free grilled cheese with spinach or arugula & pair it with cold tomato juice instead of hot tomato soup. A Reuben sandwich also entices on a rainy day, but I rarely have the ingredients available. That means it doesn’t make the list of staples I reach for when rain is in the forecast.

B,L,T and kohlrabi pickles
Another comforting sandwich is bacon and tomato. My grandmother offered these with perfectly crisp bacon, homegrown tomatoes, and a little mayonnaise. She never bothered with lettuce. Bacon, tomato, & lettuce or avocado on toasted gluten-free bread leaves my mouth watering just typing the words. Kohlrabi pickles from the fridge served alongside add the perfect bright spot on a dreary day.
blt
Mashed potatoes with chives
Sometimes I reach for potatoes on a rainy June day. Even though potato salad might be the expected summer preparation, I choose mashed potatoes and leave them a little chunky. Flavored with butter, a couple of tablespoons of half and half, and chives, there’s no need for the added heaviness of gravy.

Pasta with Parmesan
I always keep a package of gluten-free pasta in the pantry. While it’s cooking according to the package directions, I melt a tbsp or two of butter in a skillet or sauté pan. Then I add 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk, half and half, or cream. I just use whatever I have handy. Once the sauce is warm and begins to bubble, I sprinkle it with garlic powder, salt, coarse black pepper, and add shredded or grated Parmesan. When it’s done, I drain the pasta and stir it into the sauce. The whole process takes less than 15 minutes and the cheesy goodness wraps your insides in comfort.

To make this dish an entrée, I add frozen English peas to the pasta during the last 5 minutes of cooking, then drain and add them to the sauce along with the pasta. If I have leftover chicken, I chop or shred it and warm it in the sauce as well. Chicken, peas, pasta, and cheese makes a complete, satisfying meal.

Ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato
I love ice cream any time of year, but I could live on it in the summer when it’s 114 outside and I’m afraid my tires will melt driving down the highway. Even on a rainy day, ice cream makes me feel happy. Sometimes the selection in my freezer leaves me choosing from frozen yogurt bars or black raspberry and chocolate chip gelato. That’s not a bad thing. They’re definitely cold, sweet, delicious little rays of sunshine shewing the dark clouds away.

Those are today’s five winners!

You may have other rainy day favorites – chicken and rice, Pizza Margherita, movie popcorn, or a frozen candy bar. On years like this one, it’s good to keep a few favorites on hand cause the rain keeps popping up, or more appropriately stated – pouring down, in spite of the forecast.

Maybe after our ice cream, we’ll see a rainbow! That sounds delicious.