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Twinkies and Foods that Bring Us Comfort

I’ve been thinking about Twinkies recently.

This isn’t because they’re one of my favorite foods. In fact, I can’t remember when I last ate a Twinkie. Maybe sometime in high school?

But they do seem to show up a fair amount in movies. For those who consider Die Hard a Christmas movie (and I’m one of them), you get the scene with Sergeant Al Powell buying a bunch of Twinkies at a convenience store, presumably for his pregnant wife. Then in Ghostbusters, Egon explains the level of paranormal activity in New York by using a Twinkie as a reference.

But what really got me thinking about Twinkies, and comfort food, was a recent conversation. Somehow the discussion turned to the movie Zombieland, in which Tallahassee searches desperately for Twinkies. At first, it’s not clear why, but then the truth comes out.

He’s looking for Twinkies because he’s seeking comfort.

Food and comfort

Most definitions of comfort include being free from physical pain or discomfort, as well as being emotionally less worried, less upset, or not in emotional pain.

I also read recently that comfort can include a feeling of safety, which makes sense to me. After all, you can’t be free of distress if you’re worried about your safety.

It got me thinking that this is another reason many of us find food so comforting. If you have enough food, you’re safe from getting too hungry. And if you have a place where you can sit and enjoy your food, you have at least some safety and security. That’s a very different feeling than if you’re worried you won’t have any food, or if you feel like you have to guard what you have from others.

And of course, certain foods are comforting because they remind you of earlier times in your life, perhaps simpler or happier times, or occasions where you shared that food with someone who’s no longer here.

I think all those aspects of comfort came into play in Zombieland. At first, Tallahassee’s obsession with Twinkies seems rather absurd, considering that society had collapsed due to a zombie apocalypse.

But then it turns out that for him, Twinkies brought the comfort of a time before everything fell apart – and before his young son died. A time when he felt happy and like his life had meaning. It was probably also a time when he felt safe, unlike after the zombies came.

Once that became clear, suddenly his focus on Twinkies didn’t seem so strange. Instead, it felt very relatable.

Holiday foods and traditions

Right now, many of us are also in the midst of or preparing for holidays, which invariably involve food. Many of those foods are traditional in our societies or families, and those traditions also bring a certain comfort.

Making food that people before us made connects us to them in a very special way. It helps us remember them, honor what they taught us, and pass that on to future generations. We can imagine, at least for a moment, that those now gone are still with us, and it brings us back to earlier times.

This doesn’t mean you have to make all the traditional foods, or that you always have to make them for every holiday. But when you choose to have those foods, try to take a moment to think of how you learned to prepare them, and enjoy those memories.

Comfort comes in many forms

The foods you find comforting will vary a lot depending on where you grew up, when you grew up, and what your family ate.

For some, it might be Twinkies. For others, it might be grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. For others, it could be a bowl of handmade pasta, baklava, or tacos made with fresh corn tortillas.

Whatever foods bring you comfort, I hope you can enjoy them this holiday season, and that they come with many good memories.


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