Take me where it smells of love

I dream of a house that smells of lasagna, coq au vin and mocha cake; a kitchen in which my parents would be busy; dishes au gratin… Clearly, winter is approaching.

Posted yesterday at 8:00 a.m.

There are things that cannot be avoided. Among them: death, silly comments on the internet and, in my case, an autumn craving for soothing foods.

These days, I find myself thinking often about my mom’s baked apples and my dad’s ratatouille. I would pay dearly to go home and find the smell of these dishes again. I came to wonder why we culturally associate fall with comfort food…

“I don’t think it’s an officially documented phenomenon,” laughed Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard. In the same breath, the psychologist added that it is however something that she does observe. (Phew.)

The one who teaches at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières specializes in health psychology. During our discussion, she presented me with four hypotheses that could explain our nostalgic relationship to autumn cuisine. If you also dream of rediscovering the scents of your youth, you will certainly find something to understand yourself better in the next lines…

(Understanding each other is the work of a lifetime, but doing it through gastronomy seems a little less heavy to me.)


The soup… ideal for cold weather

Theory 1: Evolution

It is not so far, the time when we needed a good layer of fat to prepare us for winter, Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard first explained to me. “It was adaptive! And the foods that we consider the most comforting have a high caloric density. »

My mother’s mocha cake, a simple matter of survival.

Autumn would thus guide us towards richer dishes, which is a good thing. Let’s say that leaving the oven when it’s 32°C is a little less adon…

Theory 2: the return to the nest

This time of year can arouse a certain need for security. Not only do we know that the approaching winter has its share of harshness in store for us, but we are also going through a “sad season”, believes the psychologist.


Psychologist Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard

Autumn is the lack of light, the cold, the grey, depression, seasonal depression… There is a certain withdrawal into oneself. If we need comfort, we can turn to things that made us feel good when we were little.

Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard, psychologist and professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières

According to Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard, eating is precisely the most effective way to comfort oneself. In fact, we get used to it from childhood. We are rewarded with food, parties come with treats and even the most ordinary dishes are synonymous with appeasement.

I learned a term for this: food neophobia. This is a fear of novelty that many children know well…

“The little ones are very focused on texture,” the psychologist explained to me. They begin to eat with slack. Potatoes and pasta are among the first dishes they learn to like, after compote. Most like spaghetti and shepherd’s pie because it’s easy to chew and therefore super comforting! »

Even as an adult, you can find these dishes soothing – and not only because of their texture: “We are so much in a context of performance, on a daily basis, continues Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard. Looks like shepherd’s pie is the reverse of that. You can’t miss it… Or particularly pass it, notice. »

Goodbye pressure, hello slack.

Theory 3: the power of smell

Our memory is strongly linked to our sense of smell. The smells that rocked our youth have therefore created deep memories. This sensory memory is pure, believes Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard.

Memories of meals from our childhood are especially precious because they take us back to a simpler time.

Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard, psychologist and professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières

A time when we were certainly experiencing challenges, but where paying school taxes and planning three meals a day were not part of it.

The professor, who teaches psychotherapy of eating behavior, points out another important aspect of our sensory memory: “For many people, eating comes with guilt. The smell does not come with any heaviness. »

Theory 4: The Power of Marketing

If we owe our fall need for comfort food to natural factors, we also owe it to a certain social construction. When you line up at the grocery store, you can see several magazines advocating gourmet cuisine, slow cooker recipes, revisited classics (always easier and faster to execute), etc.

According to Marie-Pierre Gagnon-Girouard, we are not insensitive to this marketing. You end up making associations, which isn’t necessarily bad. As we talk more and more about local food, it is desirable to promote the products offered here…

Squash, potatoes and carrots are abundant, so take advantage of them to recreate a kitchen where it smells of love.

Whatever our motives, there’s nothing wrong with reverting to childhood for a season.

Eating rich and soft will never have made so much sense…

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