2013 has already been interesting, to say the least. In the last few months, life has been challenging for many, and I am no exception. Personally, my husband and I have endured the deaths of two dear friends within a month. This has been challenging, but has forced thoughtful introspection of our own lives. It has also led me to rethink “comforting foods.”
Even when life feels difficult, one thing never changes. We never stop eating. Or, at least we should not. I find people generally fall into two categories under times of stress: overeating or undereating, neither of which is healthy. I have been trying my best to eat healthy foods during this period of grief. After spending five days in Anchorage, Alaska, last week with the grieving families of our friend that passed, I realized something. There are foods that do actually make a person feel better, if only temporarily. It gives them the energy to continue doing simple activities that may feel insurmountable, like taking a shower.
We spent St. Patrick’s Day in Alaska, and instead of making a traditional corned beef and cabbage/Guinness meal, we made halibut fish tacos and fresh muddled margaritas for the entire extended family of our deceased friend. (The local halibut was too good to pass up, and I promised my husband we would make our Irish meal on Cinco de Mayo instead.) Working together we made a simple, but fulfilling Mexican meal. We served halibut tacos, fresh cabbage salad, Mexican rice, black beans, refried beans, and chips/guacamole/salsa. It was important to me for the guacamole to be a star in honor of St. Patty’s. Therefore, I put extra love and energy into my favorite green dip.
Soon, the entire family started arriving, and they hovered around my giant bowl of guacamole. I had not seen them eat with such enthusiasm in days! Obviously they were hungry, and everyone loves guacamole, but this was different. They seemed genuinely focused on one thing: eating. It was a wonderful feeling to observe these people enjoy their food and smile for the first time in a long time.
At the end of the night, I was curious as to why the guacamole had seemed to affect everyone positively, and so I decided to Google “foods to make you happy.” What topped the list? Avocados. They help boost serotonin, a natural chemical that assists neurotransmission in the brain, aiding in reducing depression. Avocado is also high in potassium and monounsaturated fat, which help reduce blood pressure. Other “happy” foods listed were salmon, pistachios, oats, wine, chocolate, Swiss chard and asparagus.
These past few months have led me to discover an entire realm of food beyond traditional comfort food, which typically involves cheese, bread, pasta, and is probably hot. There is a time and a place for these foods, but they are not a sustainable solution. I have always believed that food is medicine and that, if used correctly, can heal us in many ways. I have shared my simple guacamole recipe, in case some of you are in need of some happiness. This would also be a great dish for those of you actually planning on making Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo.
Recipe: Stacy’s Guacamole
- 2 large ripe avocados
- ¾ whole lime squeezed (juice)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/8 cup red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes (optional)
- Mix ingredients together in a bowl until creamy. Serve with tortilla chips.
- *This recipe can be made with many variations. If you prefer a particular flavor, increase that ingredient so it may shine. Make it yours!
Number of servings (yield): 2