For many of us in the Southern Hemisphere, summer’s warm weather means lots of barbecues, salads, fruit, and light, easy meals. Then, as soon as the heat fades away and autumn and winter make their presence felt, we start to crave food like pasta, soups, pies, roast dinners, crumbles with ice cream, and puddings with molten centres. But why do we want comfort food when the weather turns cool? Turns out it might be for very scientific reasons – as well as some not-so-scientific ones.

It’s partially to do with neurochemicals. Our stomachs produce both dopamine and serotonin, known as the happiness hormones. When we eat, a complex chain of reactions makes this duo trigger feelings of joy and well-being. They’re also helped by sunlight and exercise – both of which are often shorter in supply in the winter months (who wants to run, swim or play tennis in the cold?).

When we’re producing less of them, the balance of good and bad bacteria in our guts gets a little out of whack, impacting the relationship between our stomachs and our brains. But by eating more in winter, dopamine and serotonin get to work again, sending “happy” messages to the brain.

OLD HABITS

There are plenty of other reasons why we crave hearty comfort food in winter, too. It may be partly evolutionary: our ancestors, living without the luxury of housing and heating, routinely “fattened up” to survive tougher conditions. Storing fat was an insurance against the risk of not finding food, which, for our prehistoric forebears, was most likely in winter.

Another factor is the weather. For the same reason that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more common in winter, researchers believe that many of us experience lower moods in the colder, darker months, which is linked to emotional eating.Then there’s the fact that we eat more carbohydrates and fats in winter, both of which impact our happiness levels. “Foods high in carbs and fats trigger a release of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin… triggering chemicals in the brain that make us feel good,” says neuroscientist Rachel Herz, author of the book Why You Eat What You Eat.

A MEATY SUBJECT

All of which is good knowledge to have if you’re in the business of selling food to hungry Australian consumers. For butchers, in particular, cravings for a hearty winter roast with all the trimmings can only be great for business.

Lesnie’s Winter Fare range is another piece of very good news. These five stuffings – Granny’s, Chicken Supreme, Fruity Butcher Boy, Honey Macadamia and Plain – will add oodles of flavour, moisture and texture to your meat offerings.

Breadcrumb-based, and using premium ingredients such as fruit, herbs, spices and nuts, the stuffings are suitable for both food processors and commercial kitchens.

Comfort, indeed.