Have you ever felt particularly frustrated, disillusioned, or exhausted to make up for your malaise with gluttony? We all tend to lean toward and seek alleviation in specific treats which, gobbled down with no mercy for mindful reflection, instantly give us a pain-filling effect. This kind of food seemingly acting on our morale in a beneficial way is popularly referred to as ‘comfort food‘. For some, comfort food can be a slice of pizza; for others, butter cookies, strawberry ice cream, or creme caramel.
Although ‘comfort food’ has no unified definition, it is commonly referred to like food that one eats to get consolation under a stressful situation and providing a state of immediate well-being, especially at an emotional level. A somewhat recurring feature of comfort food is that it usually identifies with whether ready-to-eat or ultra-processed foods, not requiring any labor-intensive culinary preparation upstream. Precisely because this type of food must immediately be available as an urgent fix to soothe an uncontrollable need for comfort.
Even if most comfort food is reckoned unhealthy, it mustn’t be such. For example, chocolate is broadly considered comfort food for its twist of sweetness—given its amount of sugar. However, high-quality chocolate may reserve much more than being shut in the one and only association with a smooth sweetness. Good chocolate with natural flavor inclusions can represent the perfect indulgence food with no regrets on our dietary regime. Take sea salted chocolate, for instance.
What is it that makes sea salt and chocolate such a classic combo for a quick moreish fix?
It’s all about contrasts.
The crispy crunch of the sea salt goes well with the smooth and melting mouthfeel of the chocolate. Furthermore, the crispy crunch versus the creamy sensation contrast in salted chocolate can be amplified with the use of additional ingredients, such as finely ground cacao nibs, like those included in this Beyond Good by Madécasse Sea Salt & Nibs Chocolate bar:
Sea salt also works on the flavor profile when added to chocolate. It offsets the chocolate sweetness and brings into line a high wire of sweet and savory notes, while also moderating any excessive bitterness. This compound sensory effect will make our taste feel more complete and satisfying for ‘filling in’ our flavor receptors with intense sensations.
Unlike monodimensional flavors that can leave us bored after a few bites, the complexity that results from the contrast of salty and sweet in sea salt chocolate will leave our taste buds intrigued enough to keep coming back for more. Consequently, we can easily recognize sea salt chocolate as the perfect comfort food.