Comedian Patton Oswalt has a well known bit about KFC’s Famous Bowls. It’s one of my favorite comedy pieces about food and after listening to it again on a car trip a few weeks ago, things began to percolate in my brain about the relationship between depression and food.
When I returned home from the trip I was low on sleep and in turn my current depressive symptoms spiked. All I could muster that evening was a bowl of canned Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder which I doctored with some curry powder and red chili flakes. A failure pile in a sadness bowl if you saw one..
As I sat on my couch in a daze eating the soup with a liberal amount of crackers I began to feel better. What was it about a liquid meal that could just make me feel good? Can a dish mirror a feeling or does it mask how you feel? I feel like the warmth of soup plays a big roll in comforting, that richness that can come from just the proper temperature of a food is amazing. Also the act of making a soup really can reflect a conflicted mind. Many elements that can be vastly different need to integrated, and layered into one dish.
To me, soup is the ultimate comfort food for a multitude of reasons, but it is also in a way mirrors depression. First, for those very depressed it is a meal that can be eaten without any sharp instruments, I have a mental image of chicken noodle soup in a pysch ward. Second, I feel like chewing is a huge hassle sometimes and soup is perfect for when you just don’t have the motivation to process your food by mechanical means, before it is sent down into the stomach. Third, there are soups like borcht or irish potato stew that have a history of desperation to them, something that your grandmother made during the thin times from the last few heads of cabbage or sad potatoes.
When I am depressed, it also comes with some pretty severe stomach and lower digestive tract symptoms and soup is a fantastic way to pack alot of nutrients into an easy to digest form.
I love making soup, i like to call them low impact foods. They are usually something that you can put together with a pretty minimal amount of effort and technique and they can yield a ton of flavour, nutrition, and comfort.
Stay tuned for my recipe for my Maple Bacon Potato Leek Soup…