Comfort Foods and Cook Books

Cooking homemade turkey chili for dinner.

Comfort Foods and CookBooks

A Winning Combination in Assisted Living

By, Mary L Brook, Associate Executive Director

What makes comfort foods and cookbooks, a winning combination in an Assisted Living community? It comes as a result of the nostalgia it creates when residents, staff, and families remember their favorite foods. People are passionate about food, especially in an Assisted Living community. They are so excited to talk about and remember where they were and how the food smelled and tasted.
However, not everyone has the same favorite comfort food. As a child, I remember eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on a rainy afternoon? I always looked forward to Thursday night dinner because it was always Tuna and Noodle Casserole with Potato Chips on top. Growing up I had a feeling of comfort knowing the rhythm and routine of my favorite food served at regular schedule date. But my comfort food may not be your comfort food.
Chicago Chef and inventor Homaro Cantu was an internationally recognized chef and leader in the field of postmodern cuisine and an inventor of futuristic food delivery systems. Even though his food inventions focused on the future, he knew about comfort foods and felt they are an important part of the food experience. He said, “Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. Whether it was our mom's homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, food has a way of transporting us back to the past.” Read More. By Kieran Morris, “How a Homeless Child Grew Up to Become the Most Inventive Chef in History,”
Food can be creative as well as fun. It can bring about a time of joy and laughter that creating wonderful memories for the people at the table. If you want to awaken old memories go to your favorite comfort foods from your childhood to recreate the feelings of nostalgia. However, if you want to create new memories that can be associated with a certain time and place try a new recipe. Cooking or baking with grandchildren is one way to create new food memories that they can recall later in life. Food memories are meant to be shared with family and friends. By sharing food together with your loved ones, you develop a deeper connection with those around you. Whatever comfort food you remember connects you to family, friends, and your immediate environment. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside as you imagine the smell, taste, and texture of the meals you created. Best of all, these foods conjure up memories of a special time or place from a long time ago without a conscious effort.
 Susan Brauss Whitbourne, PH.D. ABPP, a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is an expert in personality development. Her research includes a wide variety of subjects that focus on aging. In her post OF August 19, 2017, in Psychology Today, Entitled,  “What Your Earliest Food Memories Say About You,” she talks about the food you ate in childhood becoming an emotional memory and part of your sense of self as an adult. Her findings tell us, “Without realizing it, these emotional memories, associated with both the food you ate and the atmosphere in which you ate it, have become part of your adult sense of self.”
Family recipes are fun to share with others. We have created a Cook Book at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living giving our residents the opportunity to share their favorite comfort food while preserving our resident's history to share for future generations.
At Alexander Gardens the chef prepares a family recipe that residents have submitted for the AG Cook Book. By preparing his or her favorite recipe the resident is reminded of a time when they prepared the same recipe for a loved one. Sharing the recipe with the rest of the residents gives the person a sense of belonging and purpose. Each dish has a story and the resident loves to tell

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