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What Foods Remind You of Home?

Try to remember your first time away from home, when you were gone for long enough that you got homesick. Maybe it was summer camp, visiting relatives, going to college. Did you miss certain foods from home? Did anyone send you a care package with those foods?

Now imagine being farther away from home than you’ve ever been, without any of the familiar comforts of home. How much more important would it be to you to have those foods that remind you of home?

I started thinking about this after listening to a recent episode of StarTalk, about food in space. The whole discussion was fascinating, but one of the parts that really caught my attention was when they talked about the importance of having foods that connects the astronauts with their home. After all, not only were the astronauts far from home, they weren’t even on their home planet anymore.

In those cases, something like Soylent simply isn’t going to cut it. Because we all have an emotional connection to food, and it’s that connection we crave, not simply the food itself.

If we didn’t, recipes wouldn’t be handed down through generations. Parents wouldn’t send their kids homemade cookies (and other things) when they’re away from home. We wouldn’t say something was just like Mom (or Dad, or Grandma, etc.) used to make.

Longing for certain foods isn’t bad

This also got me thinking about how craving certain foods often seems like a “bad” thing in our society. But it’s not.

Much of the time, the foods people talk about craving are high in fat and/or sugar, and therefore eating them all the time isn’t the most nutritionally sound approach.

But having those foods in and of themselves isn’t bad, and it may give a sense of comfort and connection to the people and places you’re missing.

Besides which, these cravings aren’t always for high fat and sugar foods. I remember when I went to college and started eating in a cafeteria, I was horrified by some of what passed for vegetables. Having grown up with a garden, the greyish green beans, wilted lettuce, and pallid, mealy tomatoes were unpalatable and unrecognizable.

I also remember going out of my way to buy my own plain Cheerios for breakfast since the only cereal in the cafeteria was heavy on sugar, which I didn’t like. Plus, plain Cheerios had been my breakfast for years, so I wanted that sense of continuity. And I remember how distraught I was when I did my study abroad in England and couldn’t find plain Cheerios. Cheerios are packaged by Nestle over there, and I could only get Honey Nut Cheerios.

Remembering this makes me think about the immigrants coming to Maine from faraway places. For them, the foods we take for granted are completely foreign and do not remind them of home. If anything, those foods may be another reminder of how far from home they are.

So I was very happy to see that Wayside Food Programs has started a new effort to provide immigrants with foods they’re more accustomed to. It won’t fix everything, but having that taste of home can go a long way.

Make the most of those foods

The one thing I’d say about eating those foods is, try to do it mindfully.

After all, if you’re craving a sense of home, you won’t address that longing nearly as well if you eat in front of a screen, or eat so quickly you hardly taste the food.

Instead, honor and acknowledge the longing for special foods. Pay attention while you eat it, savor the flavors and memories it brings up. And perhaps take a moment to express gratitude for the food and the way it connects you, if only briefly, to home.


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