a traditional day of the dead mask
a traditional day of the dead mask
#stressrelief #grandmotherremedies

Dear Paul: My Girlfriend Feeds Me Bread When I get stressed. Is This a Thing?

Paul Kiernan

... when I talk about this or get stressed, she gives me bread,  specifically Mexican bolillo rolls.

Dear Paul,

I have been with my girlfriend for about a year now, and things are great, we get along, we talk about everything, we have shared interests, it’s a really good relationship. Now, I have quirks, and she has quirks, but they don’t seem to get in the way. However, recently I have been going through some stressful times at work, and when I talk about this or get stressed, she gives me bread, specifically Mexican bolillo rolls. She says her grandmother, who was Mexican, told her that when people get stressed or frightened, eating a fresh bolillo roll calms the fear and reduces the stress. I love that she cares enough and helps me calm down, but is this bolillo roll thing a Mexican tradition? Does it help, or is she just being sweet?


Baked Good

fresh bolillo rolls

Dear Baked,

Turns out, the answer is yes to all three of your questions. Yes, it is a Mexican tradition; yes, scientifically, it does help, and most of all, yes, your girlfriend is being sweet.

First, the tradition. This is an ancient tradition, and it was given to us by a group of people who, in any culture, any country, speaking any language, are known for being wise, resourceful, and intuitive. That group, of course, is grandmothers. Most of the day-to-day “kitchen wisdom” stuff that we all do, maybe we don’t know why, but we do it still because it works, has been handed down to us by grandmothers. They just know shit, simple as that. Maybe because they listened, they watched, and then they refined and perfected. No matter the reason, the fact is when someone says I got this from my grandmother, it’s usually worth listening to. The case of the bolillo is one such instance.

This tradition states that when someone is stressed, they have gotten bad news, they are dealing with trauma, they are told to eat “un bolillo p'al susto," which roughly translates to a roll for the fright. A tradition set down by, you guessed it, grandmothers

The bolillo is an oval-shaped roll that is crisp on the outside with a white, soft, pillowy inside. It is perfect for sandwiches or all types and, as it turns out, for reducing the effects of fear or stress. It is a delightful roll.

Now, just because this tradition is given to us by loving grandmas, don’t poo-poo it too quickly; the tradition is actually backed by science. Doctors for years have said that when stressed or frightened, the body acts in very urgent ways. When stressed or afraid, the breathing gets faster, the heart beats faster, and the body is producing energy so that it can react, fight or flight type stuff. Down in the guts, this translates to feeling nauseous, feeling like there is a hole in our stomach, or that we need the bathroom like RIGHT NOW!

Enter the bolillo. This lovely bit of bread goes in and absorbs the acid that our stomach is producing due to a heightened emotional state. This lovely carb also distracts us with its unique texture and flavor and works to distract us from our fear or stress. Chewing actually does that. But, unlike chewing gum, we also get the added benefit of having all that nasty acid absorbed. Also, because we chew and swallow the bolillo, the emptiness we feel in our stomach is dissipated, and we calm down and feel more in control.

Now any kind of carb can help in these situations, such as tortillas or any type of bread, but the bolillo is something that is deeply part of Mexican heritage, so you should go with it when you’re chewing away your fear or stress.

As for your girlfriend being sweet, that’s unquestionable. She is not only taking care of you and worrying about you, but she’s opening up her life and culture to you as well. Basically, she is giving you the love of her grandmother when she offers you one of her grandmother’s remedies. That’s some serious love and care.

So, yes it is a thing backed up by science and even more importantly, by grandmothers. My advice don’t question it, eat the bolillo, ease your stress, and make sure you take care of that girl; she sounds like a wonderful person.

I hope that helps.

If you have a question or a problem that you think Paul can help with, drop him a line at paulk@thoughtlab.com. He’ll try to answer. Which may or may not be a good thing.