“Feed the world”….So sang Bob Geldof and Co at Live Aid.
A recent article in the Huffingtonpost looked at some psychological research that suggests that cooking for and feeding others is hugely satisfying for the cook as well as the recipients.
As a cook, I love it, I know that feeling of joy and satisfaction of watching and being with people who are enjoying what I have cooked for them. For me food is an expression of love that is the love of life itself.
Food is life and to feed others is to give them life
I wondered where such feelings come from and then listening to James Wong & Michael Mosley I realised that it all begins with breast feeding. He was explaining that the food we really crave have a perfect balance of sugar and fat. These two together in equal quantities do not appear naturally in nature, it would seem that we have had to learn to create them. It might be in chocolate or a wonderful savoury sauce it is the fats and sugars that get us going. Then he dropped the bombshell. Actually there is one place in nature where fat and sugar is naturally presented to us. It is in breast milk.
That would suggest to me that what we are really doing, in our fancy restaurants and with our fancy recipes and our Michelin stars, is to recreate the sensation, satisfaction and comfort of being breast fed.
Now, from the work I did, many years ago, with the breast feeding counsellors at the National Childbirth Trust, it appeared that breast feeding mums generally get a tremendous amount of joy and happiness from the act of breast feeding. I also know from neuroscience that breast feeding creates lots of oxytocin in the brains of both the mother and the child.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. Widely referred to as the love hormone, oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behaviour, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.
Psychologically Oxytocin is the bonding chemical. Dopamine is the hormone of attraction that is the honeymoon period in a relationship. Couples that make the transition from dopamine to oxytocin become bonded and stay together. Those that remain in the dopamine phase tend to wander to new, more exciting and dopamine producing experiences.
Now, I may be bonkers but, it would seem to me that cooking, baking and breastfeeding are all doing the same thing. That is, creating oxytocin in both the cooks and the diners. After all once a mother turns from the breast and weans the child onto solid food the same action and intention of feeding is maintained in both the mother and the child and the bond, or oxytocin, is maintained. It is a short step to chefs and restaurants where both the feeder and the fed feel that bonded sense of belonging and the comfort of what is really comfort food.
We know that eating carbs causes the brain to secrete serotonin, the wellbeing hormone. It is the fats and the sugars that create oxytocin. It would seem that food and mood certainly do go together.
Take care and enjoy your meal