Ever woke up just plum hungover? Just ever sick?
One Sunday morning, about a month ago, I woke up and my cousin was plum hungover from a crazy night: headache, vomiting, the works. We decided the best cure for him was a good ol’ bowl of hangover soup. I set to work tossing macaroni, diced tomatoes and sauce, ground beef, and water into a pot. Within fifteen minutes the soup was boiling and ready to enjoy. Despite my lack of a hangover, eating that stew made me feel better too. It made me feel at home in a way that I hadn’t in a long time.
It was nice to be with my relative and share a meal that is one of the biggest staples of Indian Country. Nothing brings people together or helps us through difficulties like food, however simple. That nourishment helps feed not only our bodies but our souls, as we laugh and tease each other over a plate. It’s one of the greatest gifts we have as people, the ability to come together as family over food.
My mom was always a very simple and straightforward cook. She wasn’t fancy., Her only spice was salt. As a child, my mom made a collection of soups, stews, steaks, gravies, and breads; like bannock, pan and tortillas. All of these meals were very simple and required nothing more than basic ingredients like salt and pepper, flour, and sugar. These are the foods I grew up on, they were what greeted me after school, after sports practice, at birthdays or clan dinners. This is the foundation of my relationship with food and what defines my sense of comfort.
The hangover soup from that day provided a small sense of home for me. It brought me back to basic cooking and meal sharing.It reminded me of my family, back in Garryowen, who because of the pandemic, I haven’t seen in a long time. I’m drained from this virtual life and I miss my family. So, there was nothing better than having that little slurp of home to ease my emotional hangover.
During times like these, when we have to be alone or only socialize in small groups, we need to take care of ourselves. As Native people much of our life is built around our/a community sharing a meal and when we can’t, we may become lonely or homesick. That said, if you needed one, this is your sign to make something for yourself, your family or friends that is a comfort food. Make a meal that fulfills you, that renews your sense of self and connection.
According to research conducted by the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, people seek out comfort food when they are experiencing negative emotions, most notably: loneliness. When people feel a lack of connection or belonging, oftentimes they seek out food associated with positive emotions or experiences.
This same research tells us that whatever foods you find comforting are dependent on your early social connections - this could come in the form of family, friends or others you spent time with early on. Oftentimes, the food we find comforting are associated with happy memories and in some ways we attempt to recreate that feeling through the food eaten at that time or that reminds us of it.
Though the physical and psychological effects are debated, comfort food is at worst, just another meal. But at best, comfort food is our connection to ourselves, our families and fulfills us enough to continue our journey.
Eating/making/sharing hangover soup with my cousin helped me feel better, if only for a few bites, about everything going on with me and in the world. These days, we need all the help we can get so whether you’re hungover, just missin’ them, stressed, or in need of comfort; get yourself some macaronis, tomatoes, ground beef and make some soup (or whatever your comfort food is). It’ll help, trust me.
- Jordynn Paz