Scent is a powerful memory-maker. I, along with most people with a working nose, have very strong memories tied to certain fragrances. You're with me, right?
The smell of the warm, balmy air when you step off the plane in Florida. The scent of your boyfriend's cologne. The old-fashioned smell that lingers in Grandma's house. They all get registered in the filing cabinets of our brain, whether we realize it or not.
Food smells, in particular, can range from poignant to exciting to nostalgic. Onion and garlic sweating in a pot will always remind me of a family dinner, just as a coconut will call to mind a pool-side cocktail during vacation. Do you remember your first food memory?
Really think about this.
I'm not talking about the first 'Aha!" moment you had at a fancy-shmance restaurant or the first time you tried an exotic ingredient, but the first memory you have tied to any food, whatsoever. It's kind of crazy to reach back into those dusty files, isn't it? Mine is an absolute shame-fest, but I'll tell you anyway.
It was summer break and I think I was about six or seven years old. We had a small backyard and would set up a garden hose sprinkler to run through all day. Good times. My mom was a serial tanner back then (nothing's changed, except maybe now she's added a few SPFs to her tanning lotion), so we all had little chairs to lounge in. I remember going into the house for a snack, and when I opened the pantry I knew exactly what I wanted--no, needed. Rainbow Chips Ahoy.
You know what I'm talkin' about. And I didn't want one or two. I wanted five, FIVE!, cookies to take back to my chair. A little primary-colored stack that I would slowly nibble to make last as long as possible. I think that was the first time I fell in love. Oh, how the warning signs were there.
I said that to say this:
I recently finished and eye-opening book, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. In it, the author grapples with his decision to remove meat and dairy products from his and his child's diet. As he thinks and rethinks his choice, he's reminded of family barbeques and what rituals would be missed without the grilled burger or holiday roast. Then he realizes that it's not the burger itself that will be missed, but the tradition and memories that accompany it.
We all have memories we hold dear--some healthy and some otherwise--but, we also have a future that belongs to us for all of the new memories we create for ourselves and loved ones.
Cheers to that. You're remembered fondly, Mr. Nabisco, even if we have grown apart.