Every time I drive through a small town and see a local drive up burger joint my mind immediately travels back to Pocahontas, Arkansas. My grandparents lived there and when I was a small child we’d make our summer trips to their small farm house and stay for a couple of weeks at a time.
There was a burger place in town called the Tastee-Freez. The hamburgers were great. But they’d also serve up some smooth soft-serve ice cream. That’s what I remember the most. And it wasn’t just the ice cream. It was the time with my grandfather who’d sneak me and my brother off for a treat as if we were getting in on something special that my parents were missing out on.
And it was special. There is something to sitting down with someone you love and sharing a meal or a dessert that sautees the two together until they are inseparable in your memory.
How Food Creates a Memory
You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon yourself. A taste or a smell transports you to another time as if you were there experiencing it all over again. John S. Allen explains in a scientific way (that I could never explain) why this happens in our brains in an essay entitled Food and Memory. The article ends with this declaration: “our evolved psychology may make food one of the more likely things in the environment around which memories are formed and focused.”
Hassan put it more succinctly: “Food is memories.” Hassan is the Indian cook in the book and movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” As Hassan cooks he remembers his Indian upbringing. He especially remembers his mother who was his first teacher in the field of culinary arts.
Whether it is science or experience or the movies we have a shared understanding that food and memory are connected. The mere sight of an old burger joint takes me back to northeast Arkansas. A Bit-O-Honey bar sent Allen forty years into the past. Bread and wine take many back to a hill and a cross.
Time to Take Back the Table
Since food memory is such a powerful thing don’t you think it would be wise to spend more time on the two? Here’s a recipe for loving your one life more:
- At least one night a week gather your family and friends together around your table.
- Have them join in on the preparation of food.
- Sit down together.
- Share stories of your first food memories and let those lead you into questions about each other’s lives.
- Clean up the meal together.
After it’s all over and your guests are gone you will have accomplished two things.
- You’ll have shared a great meal.
- And you’ll have made a shared memory.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find a small drive up burger joint and remember.
(Photo from TheSchoolMarm.com)
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