One of my clients recently gave me a cookbook as a gift, “Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow” written by Hans Rueffert, a friend of hers who is suffering from gastric cancer. Aside from the recipes, the book is about Rueffert’s own journey through dealing with his cancer and learning how to improve his nutrition which brought him into a whole new world of appreciating the purity of food in it’s simpler forms, enjoying the best and freshest local ingredients.
I came across a paragraph in his book that I wanted to share with you because it really illustrates how each of us saves and processes memories.
“I am a restaurant boy. Every childhood memory I have took place in a restaurant, above a restaurant, on the way to a restaurant or returning from a restaurant. Those memories, either good or bad, are forever linked to not only the restaurants, but the food itself, be it bad or good. So I guess I’m not just a restaurant boy…. I’m a food boy. Food has defined me. Some people have soundtracks to their lives and some have screenplays… I have a menu. Every smell and texture and taste evokes a strong connection with the first or worst or best experience I had with that food. When I eat gravlax, it’s 1982 and I’m with my Uncle Wolfgang in Trondheim, Norway; banana pudding or fried okra and I’m back in my grandmother’s kitchen in Atlanta. These collected eating experiences are the common threads that hold my timeline together.”
I have re-read that paragraph at least a dozen times and each time I read it, I come away with something different. I recognize how I too have a warehouse of memories attached to food or food events. Food was huge in my home and continues to play a governing role as I negotiate the changes in what I can eat due to age, allergies and healthy lifestyle choices.
I have also been thinking about how important it is, in the work that I do, to find out from my clients how they process memories. Are they food boys or girls? Do they have a menu in their head? A Broadway play? Are their memories triggered by smells, art, location or sound? How fascinating it would be if I could get down to that core statement with everyone that I work with.
How do you process memories? I’d love to hear your comments.
PS: You can learn more about Hans Rueffert at his blog.
One of my childhood memories is triggered by the smell of fresh homemade bread smothered in butter with the taste of yeast and sweetness. My mother always baked bread. Its smell is a powerful reminder of my younger days waiting for the bread to cool so I could cut off a big slab.
Like you, I’ve realized a lot of my memories, especially my more recent ones related to meeting my hubby and becoming a wife and mother, are food related. A lot of what I remember about my grandparents is food related: Grandpa Bob’s beef stew, Grandma Wavis’s pecan pie or chard with vinegar, etc. One of the strongest memory triggers is related to the smell of the food. I remember in 2003 I was entering my apartment and for a brief moment captured a sniff of my Great Grammy’s Cherry Bread. I tried to locate which apartment the smell was coming from but couldn’t. Anyways, I turned into a 5 year old again and relived all the memories I could. Amazing stuff!
What an interesting concept! I definitely have a lot of memories triggered by music and some by scent: the first whiff of the ocean as we head across New Jersey to Cape May, the smell of lilacs in the spring, rain.
Jaren, funny how I have some of those same recipes. Wavis used to make the best fried chicken and she taught me how to make it and her potato salad. One day we went on a picnic and I cooked. She said, “Stefani, this potato salad is so much better than mine.” I said “it’s the exact same recipe!” She swore it tasted better. Probably because she didn’t have to cook it!
One memory I have is of my mother’s mother, Minnie. When I was a girl, she was always cooking. She would wear an apron that was always damp and she smelled like butter and brown sugar. I would get a damp sugary kiss from her which I can still conjure to this day.
Dan, I think that the smell of baking bread is extremely evocative. For me, the smell reminds me of field trips to the Helms Bakery in Culver City Los Angeles when I was a little kid. Everyone got a small loaf to take with them when they left.