13 May 2008

Does your food match your moods?

Do you ever notice how you tend to gravitate towards certain foods, depending on how you're feeling? What do you tend to eat to celebrate? To comfort yourself? To make you feel better when you're sick? To lift your mood when you're sad or depressed? What are the things you eat at a party? What about when you're gossiping with friends? What do you eat when you gather as a family? 

I find that certain foods always remind me of specific situations. For example, if I'm feeling sad, I'll gravitate towards large quantities of water. I think it's because I can't really bring myself to have anything more substantial. Alcohol won't do, because it'll irritate my stomach, and I don't want to feel sick and sad! Chocolate is a definite no, because it's yucky. 

There. I said it. I don't really care for chocolate. 

I can't eat anything soupy either, because I have to concentrate. So, if you ask my mother or someone close to me what I do when I'm feeling a generalised sense of malaise, they'll respond that I grab a large jug, fill it with water, and sit around drinking glass after glass of water, while I do other things to distract myself. Come to think of it, I also turn to water in large quantities when I'm very upset, or angry. I need that cool, sloshing liquid to clear my mouth, because it often gets dried out when I experience those acute emotions that I don't like to have. 

To celebrate, I tend to go towards foods that, in my mind, embody sharing. That is, if I'm going out with groups of friends (and anyone who's gone out to eat with me will tell you this), I'll tend to do the ordering, and grab a bunch of little nibbles. Then, as a group, we all share those little nibbles, and try a bit of everything. We keep doing this until everyone is feeling full. I don't like the "get your own thing and eat it" method, because it feels so isolated. 

There's this delightful restaurant in Midtown, called Hangawi. When you enter, you must remove your shoes at the door, and walk towards sunken seats. You sit, and the waiters provide you with outstanding service the whole time. 

Whenever I go here with friends of any shape, I make sure that we all get something different (unless it's our drinks; we don't ahre those!), starting with the appetisers. Sometimes, I'll even just do the ordering myself, and everyone takes from the main plate. By the end of the meal, we'll have gone through something like five or ten dishes, and everyone has tried a bit of everything. The whole time, we're rapidly chattering on about the food, about "you HAVE to try this!" and carrying on about the rest of our nonsense as usual. The major good thing about this method is that if you find something that you in particular dislike, someone else will probably like it more, and will really dig in. If it's something that everyone dislikes, you'll have confirmation, and multiple opinions when requesting that the waiter take it back. Most of all, however, nobody has the chance to be isolated, and everyone is highly social.

Those foods tend to be appetiser foods, and fried foods. The more fried, the easier it is to share. You don't feel quite so guilty when you split a plate of fried food with others, because you're not eating it all! 

I tend to be happy when the weather is clear, and the sun is shining, and there's a light breeze flowing. When I'm happy, I gravitate towards fresh, raw food. I like the vegetables to be bursting with flavours and wonderful aromas. When I slice into a tomato, I want the scent to leap into my nose, and drag me face-first into its bouquet. When I cut into the onion, I want the sharp sting to make my cry out. When I slice the cucumber, I want to smell the slight bitterness, a bit of grass, and the crisp, cold rivers. When I'm happy, I love having fresh vegetable sandwiches, where the juices of the vegetables fill my mouth, and dance on my tongue. I like salads, loaded with colour and flavour and texture. Just a light splash of lime or lemon juice, and a bit of salt is more than enough to make those salads and sandwiches heaven on earth. No dressings for me, thank you!

If I'm feeling sick, the first thing I hit up is Rasam. It's the one thing that will drag me out of any sickness I'm having within the shortest time possible. It's a blend of spices, tamarind, tomato, cilantro, and a little bit of legume (I use yellow split peas). Ever since Steve and I have been together, it's been his preferred sicky food as well. Barring that, I also like mooshy comfort foods, like pongal (rice cooked with split peas), gallopinto (rice cooked with beans), pasta with cream sauce, and others of that ilk. It's not a common thing to eat those fattier ones, like the pasta, but pongal and/or gallopinto is a definite staple. 

When I'm feeling in the mood for something decadent, I go towards very fatty foods, like smashed potatoes with cocoanut bechamel (make a roux with flour and oil, add cocoanut milk, add a scraping of nutmeg), macaroni and cream sauce, pilaf with saffron and three kinds of nuts (slivered almonds, pistachios, cashews), or something along those lines. Those things aren't hard to make, but the fat content, or ingredients just makes me feel like I'm on top of the world. 

When I'm with my girlfriends, and the gossip chain is in full swing, there is a requirement that there be either soda, or alcohol. Be it cocktails or cola, water simply doesn't cut it. Something about water just makes the gossip freeze in your throat. The popping of the bubbles on your tongue just lubricates the gossip into moving faster. The alcohol loosens your tongue to wag faster. In combination, the two harmonise to keep the conversation moving rapid-fire. Food is strictly optional, because it's hard to tell a juicy story while you're chewing. If any food is present, it's something you can finish off in one bite or less, and doesn't require much chewing. Hummus and pita, bajji, pakora, spring rolls, sushi, and other such nibbles are perfect. 

My mother and I try to reconnect as often as possible. Since she's so far from me, we do so on the phone. We can go for hours about nothing and everything, only pausing for breath once in a while. On those occasions, only water will do. Frankly, with my mother, the diversions and random tangents need a fair bit of attention, and require that you be up to par, or you'll get lost half way to your train of thought. 

I don't know what brought this musing on. I suppose that it's because I wasn't feeling too hot this morning (glug, glug, glug the water), but as soon as the sun came up, my mood lifted considerably (fresh vegetable sandwich). What about you?