Ever eat a piece of of your favourite chocolate and genuinely feel happier after? Or felt a little homesick after cooking your mum’s signature dish? What about that blissful calming feeling that washes over you when you take that first sip of tea after a non-stop crazy day? These are just a few examples of our emotional connection to food but I can probably go on for longer than you’d care to read.
I think in general our generational obsession with food is largely because the experience of eating is ground in deep emotions.
It’s particularly interesting that when de constructed into separate ingredients, food is relatively meaningless. Chomping on a stick of butter alone isn’t pleasurable. But the combination of flavours, ingredients and cooking processes that go into a buttery flaky croissant dipped in a steaming cup of coffee is bloomin’ delicious. This occurs because our cerebral cortex, that part of the brain that does the more complex humany bits, takes the single flavours and combines them into a unifying experiences that is immensely pleasurable.
It makes evolutionary sense that eating would make us feel good. We need a reward to be motivated to engage in risky food-seeking behaviours. That reward is the firing of our dopamine pathways that generates intense feelings of pleasure.But our emotional connection with food goes a lot deeper that the sensory level. Eating trigger internal states of the mind and body, that go way beyond something simply tasting nice. Our senses have a huge influence on each other on but this isn’t the full story. Food goes through high-order processing in the amygdala, which is where we generate emotions.
It is thought that the reason eating also stimulates the amygdala because flavour and smell are perceived as having social significance. We use food as a social tool to share and provide for each other, symbolising one of our best qualities as a species – willingness to cooperate. Food stirs pleasure because of its sensual properties and reward value, which in turn conjures emotions because of it’s personal relevance to us.
What I’m trying to say is that what maybe the reason food and cooking can be so emotional is largely due to this social aspects. When you are creating a dish for others of course you are replicating the sensory qualities, but importantly, you’re replicating desires, our memories and the field of emotional associations we have. People’s unique preferences or dislikes for certain foods are coherent with their experiences. So the beauty of food doesn’t lie in the entity itself, but the memories, emotions and stories they represent.
I’ve chosen this recipe because it’s discovery genuinely gave me a brief moment of euphoria. Turns out you can bake with white beans instead of flour and it leaves a gooey moist cookie that’s full of protein. All you do is literally wizz the ingredients together and bake it for twenty minutes. It’s simple, delicious and healthy enough to make you feel all the feels.
Vegan white bean cookies (makes 12):
1 400g tin white beans ( I used cannelini beans) N.B don’t throw away the liquid!
6 tablespoons liquid from the beans
125g (8 tablespoons) peanut butter
1 tablespoon baking powder
110g (8 tablespoons) honey
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate chips
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
- Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor (apart from the chocolate chips). All the beans should be mashed, it should resemble thick cookie dough.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Spoon a blob of dough onto a greased baking tray, flatten slightly with a fork
- Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the tops turn golden.
- Leave to cool fore 5 mins before enjoying! I recommend dunking in a strong cuppa.