Have you ever been browsing the isles of a grocery store or combing through your fridge searching for some treat to satisfy a craving that doesn’t have a name? I bet you have.
You knew you wanted something but couldn’t quite put your finger on exactly what that was. As it turns out, this phenomenon is common enough that scientists are trying to figure out what causes it. They’ve even given this mouth-watering phenomenon a name – ghost cravings, and according to an esteemed friend of mine researching the subject overseas, these cravings are a mystery on the brink of being solved.
There’ve been a few hypotheses thrown out by her team (as well as the scientific community) about what causes ghost cravings. The oldest of these hypotheses claim that dehydration is the cause and while my friend’s research shows that this could be a factor, chances are the true cause is much more complex. Her team’s research on ghost cravings suggests that it has much to do with a crazy part of your brain responsible for (among other things) memory: the hippocampus.
Together they’ve discovered that the vast majority of ghost cravings are satisfied by our childhood favourites. It’s very possible (she says) that certain stimuli we pick up throughout our day may mirror certain memories recorded in childhood which can trigger that sudden craving for the food associated most with them.
As these older memories are more likely to be sorted as trash by our brains, the cravings arise when those memories are on the brink of being deleted, thus the infamous difficulty in identifying what we want. In an effort to help our hippocampus preserve them (because it deems them as important for survival) the craving strikes in hopes that you’ll remember the food and eat it to help re-solidify those important memories before they disappear.
Hogwash? I’s say ‘no’… as my own ghost craving was recently satisfied by one of my childhood favourites. After scouring my brain for close to an hour to identify what I was craving, it happily dawned on me that the culprit was strawberry-shortcake ice cream bars. Sadly, my residential area no longer carries these treats in stores and I was forced (or given the opportunity) to get creative. After assembling my army of ingredients, I set forth to make:
Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Cake
1 litre/pint strawberry ice cream
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup milk
2 ¼ cups flour
2 pints strawberries, fresh
¾ cup sugar
1 cup shortbread crumbs
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
4 drops red food colouring
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 9” springform pan with parchment paper and grease sides. Combine flour, 2 tbsp sugar, baking powder and cut in shortening to create a course meal. Make a well and add egg and milk, mix until just blended. Layer onto pan and bake for approximately 15 mins or until golden brown. Let cool. Set aside 7 attractive strawberries and add the rest (trimmed and cut) to a saucepan with remaining sugar on medium high heat, stirring continuously to create a coulis. Layer most solid parts of coulis onto the shortcake and freeze. Soften ice cream in a large bowl and layer onto frozen cake. On high speed, whip cream, vanilla and food colouring until stiff peaks form. Layer this onto ice cream, top with reserved strawberries, drizzle with remaining coulis and sprinkle with shortbread crumbs. Freeze, cut and serve.