Food Memories and What Seems to Trigger Them
Food memories are strong.
I’m not talking about remembering what number combo you always order at your local fast food joint. I’m talking about when you walk into your mom’s house for dinner as a grown up and you’re immediately taken back. You smell whatever’s cooking. You hear it popping and cracking in the skillet. The smell hits you like a ton of bricks. Sometimes you can even taste it. But why do these sensory experiences trigger food memories so easily?
Personally, I think it’s because food is the only thing in the world that can appease all 5 of your standards senses. To me it only makes sense (pun intended) that something that can trigger all of your senses, can take you back to a time and place like it was a custom-built time machine. Even now, small hints of smell can take me back to sitting around the table at my Meemaw’s house.
The most recent was at Christmas. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that my family and I are headed the way of the vegetarian.
Back to Christmas dinner…
Anyways going to the dinner I knew we wouldn’t have much to eat, because as my mother ever so lovingly put it, “I’m only cooking turkey pie.”
No worries, we ate big beforehand and chowed down on all of the desserts.
But as soon as I got into the kitchen at my mothers, the aromas hit me and I was immediately taken back to my Meemaw’s kitchen table, and even further to my late great grandmother’s table, where the recipe originated.
French Fried Memories
Another very strong food-induced memory that manifests on occasion comes from hand-cut freshly fried French fries.
My grandmother (Meemaw) and grandad, Daddy Joe, stayed on top of their French fry game. They started out cutting the potatoes by hand. Soon, they couldn’t keep up with the amount of potatoes required to feed everyone, so they invested in quite a nice mandolin slicer.
That same mandolin lives and my kitchen now and bangs out fries for my family. When the mandolin became too hard for them to use any longer, they invest in a commercial grade potato press. My grandad even built a wooden frame to mount it too.
They could cut enough potatoes for enough fries to feed anyone in less than 5 minutes.
My grandparents also ALWAYS deep fried them. I’m pretty darn sure she always used peanut oil. I faintly remember a funny phone call to Burger King asking what kind of oil they fry their French fries in because my grandmother was “allergic to peanuts.”
Needless to say, you can tell when there are fresh cut potatoes being fried to golden greatness. The smell is unmistakable.
Smell certainly isn’t the only trigger. I can think of some specific sounds that could set off a good memory quicker than the Millennium Falcon finished the Kessel Run. (Get my Star Wars reference?)
The frying of those French fries we talked about is a good one. You know that initial deep roar that comes when the fries hit the hot oil. The pressure releasing on a weighted pressure cooker takes me back to my grandparents house and their fork tender, pressure cooked venison.
Heck, even the electrical “whirring” of the exhaust fan over a stove can connect me to some strong memories of being in the kitchen while one of my grandmother’s or mom cooked over the stove.
Maybe it’s just the sight of hot exhaust coming out of the top of your family member’s house as you show up for holiday dinner. It might be the sounds of raw potatoes hitting the piping hot fry oil. It could be the smells that emanate from the oven when there’s a pie being made. Whatever the sense may be that takes you back to a time place of food happiness, I’m glad they do.
I’m sure there are some bad food memories out there. However, when I have a food memory, especially one triggered by something, a smile crosses my face and my stomach starts to growl. I think this is one of the biggest reasons why I have a slight obsession with food.