Panic set in, the grocery store would be closed on New Year’s Day. Would I be able to survive one whole day without access to food. If I had planned a fasting day for New Year’s Day, I would not have panicked. I felt silly, being a fairly experienced faster, overbuying food as I did. In theory, my plan included meals until the 2nd or 3rd of January. In reality, I bought enough food to feed a small Ethiopian village for a month. Mostly good choices: root vegetables, carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc.; but also some not-so-healthy choices. For New Year’s Day, I decided I wanted some comfort food, the kind of food that feels like it wraps you up in a warm blanket and gives you a hug with every bite. My food dreams drifted from comfort food to comfort food, but spaghetti with meat sauce grabbed my attention and became my guilty desire for NYD.
Did I mention before that I hate cooking for one? I like cooking for one about as much as I can imagine I would like cooking for one hundred, a lot of work for very little reward and a lot of waste. However, my spaghetti, whether with meat sauce or vegetarian, out comforts most comfort foods. Let’s face it, pasta is very comforting. Just look at the Italians. They look very comfortable. They are always kissing the tips of their fingers.
The Joy of Cooking
Before the tasting of this extremely satisfying dish comes the anticipation while cooking. The smell of the garlic and onions sautéing in olive oil overwhelms my sense of smell causing the production of saliva in preparation to digest this delicious Italian delight. The lean ground beef browning in the pan after, but along with, the garlic and onion take the exquisite aroma up a level or two. Salt, ground black pepper, and a few other secret spices bring me to the edge of an olfactory orgasm. Chunks of a couple of red bell peppers and tomatoes go on top of the browning meat, and I cover the pan to allow the brown to deepen and the vegetables to soften in the aromatic steam.
Time to prepare the pasta. As a good, albeit, non-Italian cook, I go for al dente. I experience the texture of the pasta, how it feels while chewing, instead of throwing it against the tiled wall to see if it sticks. I have never warmed to this test of doneness. While the pasta boils, I add tomato sauce and paste to the meat along with a little dry red wine and a few more secret spices. Now, I wait…tempted…bothered…ready for comfort…a taste of the sauce only heightens the expectation.
Comfort on a Grand Scale
A plate full of al dente pasta smothered in homemade meat sauce, with a glass of Bordeaux, and I experienced comfort food ecstasy. As my blood sugar rose, a chemical concoction of hormones and opiates like dopamine and soothing memories flooded my blood stream, like cuddling up in a flannel counterpane with a warm, purring kitten in front of a blazing fireplace. Exquisite! Each bite brought me closer to food euphoria. Over the next two days, I enjoyed my Italian pleasure food several times, each time bringing me the same satisfaction.
I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing
However, the aftermath of such an onslaught of food best-not-eaten-if-one-wants-to-stay-healthy took me down the road of distress. Each time my digestive tract groaned and gurgled under the stress of processing so much meat and carbohydrates. Bloated does not describe the feeling that permeated my torso. Indigestion and heartburn plagued me as I tried to maintain the “comfort” in comfort food. I also felt sleepy, very sleepy, after intermittent fasting and eating mostly healthy for eight months, unbelievably sleepy. And yet, I couldn’t sleep. As soon as I laid down for some good sleep, I was wide-awake and decidedly uncomfortable in my efforts to digest the previously comfortable food. I could feel the energy focus on my stomach and intestines. When sleep did finally overtake my exhausted body, fitful sleep kept me disquieted all night. I experienced night sweats, my body’s attempt to unburden me from my discomfort. And brain fog slowly set in from a bad carbohydrate and bad protein haze. Also unfortunately, I rarely dream, or remember them anyway. But these two nights, nightmares and bizarre dreams filled my foggy brain. This dish wreaked havoc on my interior.
Never have I noticed any such effects to comfort foods. Eight months of IF and long-term fasts have attuned my body to notice the differences between good, healthy fare and foods best-not-eaten-if-one-wants-to-stay-healthy. You know though, this will not stop me from consuming the occasional comfort food in the future. I work hard at intermittent fasting to try to make my body healthy and every once in a great while I will indulge. I deserve it, damn it! Even through all the pain and suffering comfort food brings. Isn’t ambivalence grand?! I hope this shows the flexibility and tolerance to splurging IF involves. One need not give up all culinary pleasures for IF.
Have a happy New Year! If you enjoyed my post, let me know in the comments, and feel free to follow my blog as I delve into the intricacies of intermittent fasting. Until next time stay fast and fit.