Few problems can’t be soothed by a good cup of tea. And a biscuit for dunking. Maybe a whole pack of biscuits. For the real disasters, throw in a brownie or two. Definitely two. Lashings of cream. Tragedies call for a roast dinner - with all the trimmings, of course. Yorkshire puds swimming in gravy, pigs in blankets and roast potatoes dripping in goose fat.
The bigger the break-up, the more calamitous the job interview or the more horrific the drunken antics at the work Christmas party, the more those who love us pile food on the table. When they can’t fix our problems, they cook. What they can’t solve, they slather in butter and pile on to our plates.
This link between food and love is well known. Less understood – until now – is the link between love and food waste.
A study published this week in the Journal of Food Products Marketing, and carried out by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, found our cross-culture tendency to express our affection in the size of the meals we provide is a huge contributor to what households throw away each year.
Mothers serving up large portions accrue unhealthy volumes of leftovers, they found, as do families that have come from poor backgrounds and overstock food as a precaution. Caregivers concerned they’re serving up junk food also supplement with far too many side dishes of healthy alternatives, which are then chucked in the bin or left to rot in the back of the fridge.
“It’s kind of ironic,” says lead author Gustavo Porpino. “Caregivers do everything they can to fit the traditional role of a ‘good mother’. They keep the house fully stocked with all kinds of food, provide snacks and treats in between meals, and make sure everyone has more than enough on their plates at the table, but it’s these same behaviours that lead to wasted food, wasted money, and even to obesity.”
The solution to this love/food conundrum is tricky, however. Porpino recommends better education on how to manage our pantries, positive marketing campaigns on consuming leftovers and drilling home to families the cash they’re throwing away along with that half-eaten pork joint.
But at the end of the day, piling up the chocolate biscuits in front of a weeping friend is a tried and tested method for showing we care. Breaking that habit won’t be easy.