Cozy Logic, A data scientist analyzes comfort food

Cozy Logic, A data scientist analyzes comfort food

As a blogger newbie, majority of my readership is generated out of familial obligation. Same goes for my sources of content. But there is no shame in that, you have to start somewhere! Thus, I give you the Cozy Diary for the month of August, featuring my extremely scholarly older brother. His approach to life is analytical, logical, and perceptive. He’s an engineer and data scientist by day, and hardcore fitness junkie and life schemer by night. My brother is ALWAYS thinking – the wheels in his brain move at an unreasonably high rpm, except for maybe when he’s chowing down a plate of rice or knocked out in a food coma. But this is what makes his take on ‘cozy’ and comfort food unique.

I hope you enjoy his diary as he dissects the emotions triggered by food and the feeling of ‘cozy’. A refreshing and insightful contrast to my Cozy Diary to say the least.

With that, Cozy readers, meet Ian!

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Hello! My name is Ian. I am a millennial-in-denial, hail from the small island of Maui, and am lucky enough to be the older brother of this blog’s purveyor! As such, I have a familial obligation to share a story on the subject of ‘cozy’ food. But don’t get it twisted! Familial obligation does not, in any sense, mean that my good sister is merely ‘letting big brother write a piece’ solely because of my status as awesome, best looking child big brother. Trust me when I say, that discussing (and eating) food is a time-honored family tradition, as sacred as your grandma’s stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving; where your place at the table is (literally) earned through hard, smart work, thoughtful conversation, and a healthy respect for your history and elders. Those without appetite, never last long! So, let’s begin!

To put the following discussion into context, a quick background check: I am a data scientist living in the Pacific Northwest—numbers and rain are my bread and butter. My sister’s decision to settle on ‘cozy food’ as the core concept for her blog was an interesting one for me. The term ‘cozy’ and its relation to food is highly personal and somewhat subjective, I would argue, making a direct comparison difficult. But making difficult comparisons is how I try to put bread on the table! Side benefit: difficult comparisons force you to understand things from a different perspective! Extremely useful.

First, a matrix to demonstrate a few differences:

Question: What metrics are we looking at?

Sister (Cozy): Surroundings, mood, latest inspirations.

Me (Big Brother): Change in mood, consistency.

Question: How would you define the word ‘cozy’ as it relates to food/meal?

Sister (Cozy): “…feel[ing] happy, content, satisfied…”

Me (Big Brother): Relaxed, safe, fosters open conversation.

I enjoy meals that do two things: nourish your body and taste buds, and get people communicating. The first is obvious. The second, might need a little more explanation. I find real enjoyment in learning about other people—their cultures, their beliefs, their work, their passions and distastes, their values and customs—call it a personal quest for perspective. Because eating and drinking are basic human needs—like sleep and sex, but during which conversation is much easier—I like to think about meals as a transient, communal sharing of not only physical sustenance, but social and mental sustenance as well. In order to have good communication, you need an environment that is perceived to be relaxed and safe, and this is how I have chosen to define ‘cozy’.
Given the above, and seeing as how my sisters have probably taken all the intuitive genes, I’m going to try my best to break down what I think is a logical argument for my favorite cozy food.

What really sends a meal off the cozy-scale is two-fold:

How effective is a particular meal at changing my mood to being ‘cozy’ and,

How consistent is the effect?

If I think about this for a few minutes, there is a strong personal bias towards meals that are served during the holidays, when my family is around, and with alcoholic beverages. These meals have the added benefit of (usually) more relaxed, and generally happier atmospheres, amicable human beings, and appealing locales (fortunate to live in Hawaii). Alright, that narrows it down.

Drumroll, for favorite food please…and we have Steamed Onaga! Yes, a traditional Hawaiian dish of Japanese origin, typically served in our household during the New year holiday. Onaga is the Japanese name for your long-tailed red snapper and it is served with all sorts of delicious dressings and sauces over a bowl of hot, steaming rice and sake to wash it down.

This dish has the uncanny ability to bring me straight back into a mental state of unperturbable calm and happiness and 60% of the time, it works every time. If the fish doesn’t get you, the 1-2 punch with the sake definitely will, and it will also get those around you to relax and not worry so much about the little stuff! A little bit of hot rice, for luck and strength for the new year, and you have the trifecta. Since my mom is the sole source of this dish at the moment, she is always present when it is served, and my dad is never far from her. My sisters will also usually be in the house and it will be a party. Suffice to say, the experience—the food, the atmosphere, the consistency—is simply amazing. Transcendental, even.

Allow me to share one of the more magical moments of this dish. As it is being prepared, the freshly steamed fish is transferred to the serving dish. At this moment, everyone should take a swig of sake. Once transferred, there are a variety of toppings that are added—a combination of mostly fermented and pickled vegetables. Fantastic. More sake. Finally, a sauce comprised of mainly hot oil and other seasonings is poured over the fish. The moment the sauce hits the fish, there is a wonderful assaulting of the senses:

the fish skin audibly crackles and pops as it carbonizes,

the fish turns a wonderful shade of golden brown,

an amazing aroma, light, sweet, and full of family, fills the room.

Combined with the texture of crispy skin and soft, flaky meat and a wonderful flavor, you have a full sensory experience that is truly one-of-a-kind. Salivating, just thinking about it.

So, I hope you’ve found this short journey entertaining—I tried to uncover what makes me excited about the dinner table and found myself revealing much more! At the end of this, what I am most excited for about my sister’s blog, is to understand what makes other people’s ‘cozy’ factor tick; what makes them happy and why? Learning about these differences, just makes the conversation over sake that much better!

Written by Ian D.



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