Memories come on many different plates

In school teachers told me that we weren’t allowed to write about food.  We played this word game where we went around the circle and had to say a word aloud, and everyone had to “see” something for each word.  I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to say “peach” or “avocado” or “ meatloaf,” but was ushered from the food aisles in my mind.  I never understood why, I feel like food is so expressive.  It’s one of those loud mouthed children you can’t keep quiet in a waiting room.

Everyone is brought to some sort of sensual memory when they talk or hear about food.  Next time you’re listening to a commercial take note of the salivation levels in your mouth; I guarantee some of you are sucking back the drool.  I’m well aware of my weakness for food, but I know I’m not the only one.

This is why there are billions of dollars spent at restaurants, people make livelihoods cooking, tasting, and selling food.  Some of these relationships are a little on the obsessive side; there are a fair share of “Augustus Gloops” out there, but we’re gonna stay on the protagonist side with Charlie for this one.  It is true that eating is necessary for us to survive, but food has made a transfer from sustenance to art and experience.  It’s the perfect medium to connect with an audience, because it already plays such a large role in all of our lives.  We all have likes, dislikes, curiosities, and doubts that are connected to food.  There are smells, tastes and textures that will bring us to a time and place and will remain in our memories, only to be unlocked by the scents and flavors from that exact moment.

Both of my grandparents homes have a particular smell.  I’d know it if I were blind folded and taken there.  It smells this way because of the food they cook.  Each one is different, but very distinct.  Hints of bacon grease and flour are tucked into the nooks and crannies of the house of my maternal grandmother.  Chow chow, pickled watermelon rinds, and canned tomatoes are summer smells.  My paternal grandmother’s house smells like pie crust and casseroles, jello salads and pot roasts.  The oven is on year round, even on the hottest of days, and there is always a perfume leaking from it.  Sometimes I think I smell aromas down the block.

There is no other place for me to get these smells, I can’t bottle it, can’t get the smell exactly right when I make it, that’s why it’s so distinguishable.  The rarity of the smells makes them that much more desirable.  A successful cook has nothing to do with culinary degrees or award-winning prizes.  It has to do with the memory of the smells and tastes it omits.  I’ll know I’ve made it when my cooking is distinguishable by the memory of its smell.  I hope that my grandchildren will smell the history of cooked foods when they get smothered in a hug from a happy, pudgy grammy.

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Published in: on July 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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