Tuesday, 24 May 2016

"Wellness" and food

I'll cut to the chase: for years, my life has been disrupted by anxiety problems. This is nothing new to friends and family and it's also something I have few qualms in talking about. It's something I've grown to accept as part of being me. One half of my family's lineage back to my grandfather has suffered at some point in some form. I console myself knowing that it's in my DNA and Natural Born Worriers tend to be good people.

Plenty of opinion has been expressed of late on Twitter about the merits or otherwise of "wellness" and food. However, so much of it seems to be centred around physical health. I wanted to put a different slant on and how I use food for 'wellness': mental wellness.

A few Saturdays ago, I woke up in a fug of anxiety and pretty much from the word go knew that this was a "bad day". A day to where not getting into a downward spiral would be a challenge. A day to get out, do something - anything - to help the day improve. I'd planned a trip to A Casa Mia, a pizza place in Herne Bay that holds the UK's only accreditation from the Naples Pizza Association. I wasn't going to let myself give in and stay at home.

The 'verace' bufalina pizza at A Casa Mia is a thing to behold. Watching the pizzaiolo press out the pizza dough, add the very straightforward toppings of uncooked tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, sitting it in the proper wood-fired oven for all of 30 seconds, taking it out, adding the mozzarella midway through cooking so it doesn't melt into milky mush that befalls most Neapolitan attempts at pizzas, putting it back in the oven for another 30 seconds, topping it with more fresh basil and oil, and sitting eating this very simple work of art - I remember that I was supposed to be feeling anxious that day.

You see, food has this effect on me. It  soothes, it brings me into the now, not something next week or next month that was the focus of my anxiety. Food is, I suppose, therapy. Wandering round a new part of London or East Kent to visit a market. Buying some ingredients for a new dish I'd not tried making before. Sitting at the bar and watching the kitchen at it at absolute full tilt. It's all good. And - oh! cooking! Complete calm. My ultimate quiet being the slow, steady ritual of making a ragu and the steps needed to get it up to scratch. And of course, eating.

Fire away and rubbish the "wellness" aspect of food fads from the physical standpoint. But if, like me, your goal of "wellness" is making yourself feel more becalmed, more on an even keel, then whether it's a hunting down that little canteen in Croydon that allegedly does great Hainanese Chicken Rice, finding that back-street hole in the wall in Chinatown that sells fresh noodles or sous-viding a whole chicken (oh yes, this is on my list) then tuck in. You have a kindred spirit here.