I work with many clients who are addicted. . . to alcohol, opioids, food, video games, sex, gambling, and to the immediate. Instant gratification is probably the most common root of many of the ills that ale us. We want what we want when we want it. Or better yet, we “need” what we “need” when we “need” it!
In raising our son, any time he said “I need” we responded with a question; do you “need” or “would you like”? Notice the difference between the two: the one thought based on needs may lead to anxiety and illness, the other thought expresses a desire, but it may not be possible to fulfill it. The first, if always satisfied makes the brain real happy, dopamine is fired, and a habit is formed. The second way delays the reward, uses the part of the brain that is more of a challenge to activate, and results in regulation and self-control.
I recently learned more about the neuroscience of addiction through the book, “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease” by Marc Lewis. He leads the reader through several stories of addiction, including his own, with the added commentary of neuroscience. He describes what is going on in our brains when we form habits and how the slow process of healing takes place by training the brain to use the self-regulatory functions.
I have a hard time remembering the science details, but through my work with clients suffering through addiction, I see this interplay between the habit-forming and self-regulation parts of the brain. The brain has “primitive” parts that are similar to many animals and are key to survival. The immediate gratification region of the brain, that forms habits quickly and easily is necessary for survival. So, if I come upon an apple tree when starving I taste the apple, love it, the brain fires dopamine, and I keep eating apples. The more evolved section of the brain is able to say, “I better save some of these apples for later!”
Today, when the food, drugs, alcohol, and Internet are available 24/7 it is so easy to give in to temptation. The neuroscience says that the brain does what it does best when we satisfy the craving by feeding the immediate “need” and are gratified by dopamine firing. It also says that the harder job for the brain is to think through the consequences of the action, “one more sweet, just once more drink, one more scratch ticket” may just lead to consequences that we don’t want. The sad fact about the brain is that the habit-forming part functions with ease. The part of the brain that plans beyond the immediate pleasure to a larger goal is much harder to activate.
This all serves as a segway to the culture of instant food and the reminder to practice the discipline of slowing down to cook real food. We are continuing our Fall project of making home-made pasta and experimenting with all kinds of shapes. Once again, the recipe is simple, two parts semolina flour, one part water, and some sea salt. For the full process, click here. It is a fun way for us to share time together and a reward of fresh and tasty pasta dishes made from our hands! And, it’s good for our brains; delaying the gratification of the instant.
This shape called cavatelli looks a little like hot dog buns and hales from southern Italy. Roll out the dough in 1/4 inch diameter strips and then cut into 3/4 inch bite size pieces. Simply take two fingers and pull toward you to curl up the pasta as seen below.
Today, we make it with a simple sauce of garlic, olive oil, lobster, zucchini and red pepper flakes.
Add the cavatelli at the end and perhaps a little of the starchy water from the pasta and stir. This can also be made with shrimp instead of the lobster.