One of the things that makes food so enjoyable is its ability to capture memories, powerful, sensory, olfactory memories born from food and packaged forever into our brains. Triggered by the spicy smell of thickening sausage gravy, the hiss of apples cooking in brown butter, and the sight of an over-crowded pie pan filled with white biscuits, I am nine years old and I can eat more biscuits and gravy than my grown grandfather.
Isn’t it funny how food has such control over us? Funny though food is, stored in the mind as a positive or negative experience with emotions to boot, it’s even funnier knowing that those emotions are actually born from deep within your gut.
Inside the deepest depths of your core, there are roughly 400 different species of bacteria—thus those bacterial genes outnumber our human genes thirtyfold. In essence, we are all more bacteria than we are human—which is a crazy thought. These critters make up what we call the human microbiome, and it houses 95% of your feel-good serotonin production. They work for us to keep us balanced, regular, and happy, so long as we feed them well, meaning with simple, whole foods.
Whole foods, like grains, are designed to be consumed in their entirety. With each part intact, the grain lends itself to proper digestion: beneficial fats and minerals in the germ, along with fiber in the bran help to slow down the speedy breakdown of energy-rich endosperm. Adding a sourdough culture helps to break-down difficult to digest components of grains, which renders them further accessible to our bodies for absorption.
Taking care of our gut and our mental state doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our most favorite comfort foods. Macaroni and cheese can easily be converted to include whole grains, as can chocolate chip cookies and biscuits and gravy. Though baking and cooking with whole grains may take some getting used to, once our palates have adapted to whole grains, we become devoted to these flavorful and satisfying offerings. Striking a balance between our memories, traditions, and happiness and our health may actually leave us feeling physically, emotionally, and digestively happier.
I’ve learned to adapt many recipes behind my memories and to cultivate new ones with the ones I love. With every scent of simmering sausage gravy and sputter of caramelizing apples, I am transported to a time of blackberry foraging and cobbler eating by the campfire, when loud engines revved among the dunes and tossed up sand as my family rode to the beach to sit on a piece of driftwood and eat lunch.
Powerful emotions around food are no coincidence. We’ve worked out a great trade with our many partners in digestion: good eats for them and powerful happiness for us. I wanted to share with you my adaptation of my most favorite meal. It is a meal fit for every imaginable interpretation of the term comfort food and I hope it leaves you feeling nourished.
Kala Riddle is a nutritionist turned sourdough baker, who enjoys celebrating the seasons through cooking, growing, and sharing our most basic and personal connection: food. Keep up with her at www.untamedbakeshop.com