“Meat ‘n Taters” was guest written by Organic Valley Senior Copy Editor Kimberly Kafka.

Meat-n-Taters

Don’t read on if you’re looking for recipes. Do read on if you like answers to “life’s persistent questions.”

When most folks think of meat ‘n taters, they think “comfort food.” Sunday roast ‘n mashers, steak and bakers, burgers ‘n fries, hand in glove… You get the idea.

Are meat ‘n taters comforting because they’re such a traditional combo? Does the comfort occur because of what foodies refer to as sense memory? Superficially, sure. But the comfort goes deeper than that, right down to the molecular level. There’s a cellular reason why that combo is so desirable to the human organism, and it isn’t because of holiday memories.

So first with the protein, as in meat. We require protein to maintain life. This is not surprising when you discover that we are made of protein. At the molecular level, each human cell consists of 20 percent protein. Only water, at 60 percent, outweighs protein. Btw, what makes us love the taste of meat is not the meat itself. Protein is not a taste. What makes protein even more desirable to us is the act of cooking it. Cooking meat changes it chemically and creates umami, the fifth taste.

The second big payoff we get from meat ‘n taters is sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates from the taters. Spuds are classic complex carbohydrates, which break down to simple sugars that our bodies need to function. The human brain is a serious glucose hog, which is why we love to gobble simple sugars, like dessert and sweet beverages, because they give us that quick “high.” Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand (the one in the glove), are made to sustain us for a longer haul. Potatoes, for example, break down slowly in our bodies from complex to simple sugars, and they do that by way of fiber and minerals and other goodies we also need.

What’s the upshot? Don’t be self-conscious about drooling over grandma’s roast ‘n mashers, or even a burger ‘n fries. It’s not just because of the taste and memories. It’s because we don’t merely crave what we want. We crave what we need.