It is as historical as it is worldwide: food fosters all great expressions of love. With a communal feast, most cultures affectionately celebrate births, weddings and graduations; or through the preparation of a nurturing meal, the care for an ailing loved one is conveyed. And – you guessed it – romantic love is often cultivated over a special dining experience.
Interestingly, certain foods promote the release of brain chemicals involved in relaxation, alertness and elevated moods; so it is plain to see how eating can relate to feelings of love, given the right setting.
It has been said that ‘food made with love tastes better’. An obvious example of this is the difference in taste between a fast-food meal and a mother’s specially laboured dish. Love makes you pay attention to details; meals are made more carefully.
There is a popular science that positive emotions can actually improve the molecular configuration of water crystals, as researched by Dr Masaru Emoto. Considering that most meals contain a significant amount of water – or are cooked with water – one may conclude that the intent of love by the preparer may, in fact, enhance the molecular quality of the meal!
So it is important to promote the dining table as a platform for family love. Prioritise mealtimes without distractions, and be surprised at how quickly children open up and convey their hearts. Introduce conversations of a warm and light-hearted nature. Not only will this nurture family bonding, but contented emotions will ensure everyone’s digestive functions operate with ease.
The consumption of good food on a daily basis is a decisive example of self-love. Teach children that when they eat nourishing foods, they are caring for and loving their bodies. It will help them understand and appreciate why parents spend so much time making meals, and why, lovingly, we restrict junk food consumption (because it may damage their bodies).
What better heritage to pass down to the next generation than a tender appreciation for food and its emotional significance. This Valentine’s Day, invite your children on a romantic picnic together! It is never too early to introduce children to beautiful and chivalrous romance (let us not risk allowing the television to educate them on these matters). Psychologists explain that when children watch exchanges of appropriate love between their parents, like cuddles and romantic dinners, it can significantly improve their self-esteem and personal security in life.
Prepare for the picnic by seeking what favourite food you can make for each other (perhaps choose one of the chocolate recipes following). Not only is this an opportunity to build your child’s culinary skills, but also it highlights the expression of considering other people’s desires before your own – a true action of love.
On the romantic family picnic, parents could demonstrate another gesture of love-in-action regarding food by establishing ‘table etiquette’. For example, serving others first, extending good manners and patiently waiting for the completion of all meals. If you are a single parent (as I am), make the aim of your Valentine’s family picnic to treat each other as special as possible.
The more that we teach children about the emotional and cultural significances of eating; the more they will cherish food’s many values into their adult years.
Food In Focus: Cacao
Cacao is the guilt-free, uber-nutritious, chocolate-indulgence ‘super food’ of LOVE. In historical South America, cacao was so prized it was utilised by Mayan culture as currency. Cacao (pronounced ‘ka-kow’) should not be confused with the less nutritious, heat- and chemical-treated counterpart, cocoa powder. Cacao fosters longevity by offering the highest antioxidant content of any food – including berries, red wine and green tea – and sports one of the richest sources of absorbable magnesium (a natural muscle relaxant). Available in health food stores, cacao powder can be used as a replacement for recipes requiring cocoa or chocolate flavouring!
2 ripe, medium avocados
2/3 cup of 100% maple syrup
2-3 tbsp cacao powder
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1-2 tbsp of rapadura sugar (or raw sugar)
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp tamari or soy sauce; or ¼ tsp sea salt
Topping – chopped fruit and/or nuts of choice
Combine ingredients in a blender until smooth. Chill for a few hours before serving with chopped fruit and/or nuts. Alternatively, mix with yoghurt for a tangy chocolate cream.
Liquid Lamington Milkshake
(For an adult version, add some cream liqueur!)
1 tray of ice cubes
1 cup coconut milk
4 tbsp agave syrup
2 ½ tbsp cacao powder
Combine in a blender until ice is finely shaven.
Makes about 12 muffins
1 cup of self-raising flour
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup hazelnut meal
½ cup mixed berries
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup cacao powder
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2-3 tbsp honey
A pinch of salt
Beat the eggs. Add the liquid ingredients and process together, followed by the remaining dry ingredients. Spoon into patty cases. Bake in a moderate oven until muffin tops spring back when gently depressed (about 18 – 25 minutes depending on the size of the patty cases).