The importance of comfort food

This was my dinner last night, minus the Trix:

I grew up eating sugary cereals like this, though these four were actually few and far between in my bowl since my mom didn’t like them that much – we tended towards Cheerios, or Kix, or Grape-Nuts Flakes, which were towards the slightly more healthy end of the sugary-cereal spectrum. Usually, whenever I did get one of these cereals, it was in one of those mini six-pack samplers, or at a friend’s house for a sleepover. They became a sort of special treat, in a way.

As I got into my mid-twenties and beyond, I started swapping out the Cheerios for Raisin Bran, and then Great Grains, and now I’m pretty much off the sugary stuff entirely (this was a conscious decision before my UC was diagnosed to consume less sugar, and when I started reading labels, I was appalled at how much sugar even Great Grains contains). Now I eat what most would call a bland toasted wheat cereal, which is pretty much just plain whole wheat, toasted, and formed into bite-size nuggets (Mom’s Best Naturals, if you’re interested). I don’t mind it, and truth be told, since I’ve decided to wean myself off of sugar as best I can, I actually find most cereals too sugary to handle on a regular basis, even the more healthy ones like Great Grains.

So what on earth was I doing curling up with a bowl (um, maybe two, I don’t know) of these guys last night?

I confess that it has never in my 31 years occurred to me to mix cereals and eat them all at once. Back during the Christmas season I watched an absurd amount of Lifetime movies because really, who does holiday schmaltz better than they do? One of the films I saw was about a troubled mother-daughter relationship that had a scene in which the daughter, in a deep funk, poured herself a bowl of cereal composed of every type of cereal she had in the house. Near the end of the film, her mother is in the kitchen with her when she does it again (but not in a deep funk, since they’ve reconciled by this point), and mom says “hey, pour me a bowl too!”, and daughter does, smiling and saying that she learned this mixing-cereal thing from her mom. I couldn’t believe it: this was a genius idea, right in front of me for the taking! A couple of weeks later I tried it, with the three cereals pictured above that are not Trix, and nearly cried, it was so good. (But definitely NOT the sort of thing to be done on a regular basis.)

Anyway, back to answering my question. I’ve long been wary of using food as an emotional crutch, because I know it can lead to trouble, but I believe wholeheartedly in occasionally indulging in one’s need for something easy and comfortable when the world seems like it’s gone to hell. Sometimes I come home and think, damn, I’d love a bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese, but sense prevails and I cook some vegetables instead. But other times, like Monday, I know well before I’ve even gotten home that sense is not going to prevail and there will be no vegetables that night: it’s comfort food time, health be damned for a couple of hours.

Monday was when I found out that my favorite restaurant/bar in town had closed suddenly over the weekend. I felt silly being as upset about it as I was, since it’s just a building, right? Not for me – it was a family, a place where I made so many good friends and have so many good memories. Losing it was like losing an actual human friend, and I was somewhat inconsolable for most of the day. I knew early in the afternoon that the cereal bowl was the only thing I wanted to eat when I got home from teaching my evening class. But, when I got home, my saint of a boyfriend had other plans; I’d left him a message earlier telling him I was actually taking this pretty hard, and he decided that in honor of the restaurant we should do our best attempt at re-creating one of their burgers for dinner. It took me about two seconds to abandon the cereal idea, and he went out to the store to get the necessary ingredients – and, because he knows me, a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese for the side. I love this guy.

So we made burgers, and had a beer to wash them down with, and while it wasn’t the same as the real thing, it was a fitting tribute – not to mention a completely filling dinner. The cereal would have to wait, unfortunately. Tuesday, I said to myself, Tuesday.

I had to teach another evening class on Tuesday (last night), so I did, and on my way home stopped by the restaurant to leave a note paying my respects. I ended up hanging out for an hour or so, reminiscing with people, and finally left when I realized my stomach was making some fairly horrific please-to-be-feeding-me-now? noises. There was no question as to what I was going to put in it; that cereal didn’t stand a chance.

And it was delicious. Diet be damned, that bowl was exactly what I needed at that moment, and delaying said moment only made it all the better. Tonight I’ll have a slightly more reasonable dinner of – yup – vegetables, which is fine, but last night I was in sugary heaven, and felt not a whit of guilt.

(I’ll write about running and medicine a little later. You know, in case you were wondering.)

*Image credit: bountynsavings.com

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