“Past associations are the most common reason a food becomes a comfort food. Some of these associations can be linked to specific individuals (‘My father loved green bean casserole; we ate it every holiday and on his birthday’)…or specific events (‘My mom always gave me soup when it was cold outside or when I was sick and staying home from school’). They’re also associated with specific feeling that the person likes to recall or wants to recapture (‘We always got ice cream after we won baseball games as a kid’).”
(Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating)
So our comfort foods have a deep and rich past, buried in our subconscious with memories and feelings of warmth and safety.
An even more fascinating facet is that there really is some truth to the phrase, “We are what we eat.” We identify with food on a personal level. Foods we genuinely love and find comfort in usually remind us of aspects of ourselves that we like. Our comfort foods are compatible with our personality.
If you like a food that is rich and decadent or warm and nurturing or hot and spicy, this may reveal a lot about your opinions of yourself! Conversely, foods we dislike intensely can reveal traits we either don’t like about others or ourselves.
Of course, our personal history with certain foods comes into play as well. Just the childhood memory of being forced to stay at the kitchen table until we finished eating those stewed tomatoes or creamed spinach is enough to make us push that dish away years later.
So our connection to various foods is multi-layered. Maybe a dish may remind you of a place, a feeling, an individual or a time. Often all of these elements come into play when you bite into a warm oatmeal cookie or sip hot chocolate and somehow feel a little more relaxed.