Many years ago, I made a commitment to travel around the world as much as I possibly could. Of course, I was interested in the history and culture of the countries that I visited, but mostly I wanted to learn about the social aspects of each culture—and particularly how food plays an integral part in daily life from everyday meals to holiday feasting and celebrations.
But when I think of my fondest food memories, I realize that my favorite dishes were the simple ones prepared in quaint establishments where I was able to chat with the cook behind the stove. These were the comfort foods of each country: rustic stews, pasta simply dressed with freshly pressed olive oil and garlic, and perfectly roasted potatoes that melt in the mouth.
Comfort foods are truly the foods that bind us together. They have stories to tell and the ability to make everything seem just a little bit better on a cold and rainy day. But most of all, comfort foods are the foundation of great cooking. It was actually my mom’s perfect meat loaf, her crisp roast chicken, and paprikash straight from her Hungarian heritage that taught me the fundamentals of cooking. (My mom, by the way, has had diabetes for the past 48 years.)
Many health professionals believe that one should “eat to live.” In many ways this belief is quite logical. I have a bolder vision of wellness. My belief is that it’s actually OK to “live to eat.” Eating well is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Health to me is more than a great checkup with your doctor or a number on a scale. Good health encompasses an attitude of happiness and pleasure derived from daily activities. If eating can give a joyful experience beyond its nutritional makeup, I believe that you can find balance between what you need to eat for good health and what makes your taste buds dance in delight.