Not sure about everyone else, but when I taste certain foods my mind wanders back to a different time. The time travel I experience through taste memories isn’t déjà vu (which is an odd phenomenon itself), but an overwhelming sensation of nostalgia, mild sadness, and glee, all at the same time.
Signature tastes from the past — freshly-made vanilla ice cream, roast beef and potatoes, crisp apples in the fall — make me want to pull out my family cookbook and prepare a few of the old-timey dishes that I’ve been neglecting. They are mostly the comfort foods I remember: chicken pot pie, vegetable soup, and meatloaf.
I asked a few friends and neighbors if they experience taste memories and time travel, and most agreed that certain foods conjure up specific memories. Following is what they told me about their food-taste memories-time travel experiences:
Bologna & cheese sandwich with mustard – Lunch by myself on the benches in the elementary school courtyard.
Cucumbers & sour cream – A neighbor from my childhood home.
Salted peanuts in Pepsi – Summers in North Carolina.
Warm milk with sugar and bread – My grandmother, when I was sick.
Spaghetti – Eating dinner with my whole family.
Coca-Cola made with cane sugar – My dad’s lumber yard and the dime soda machine.
Sweet tangy lemonade – Playing chess with my grandfather in the park.
No one really knows why taste memories are so powerful, maybe even more provocative than the senses of smell or sight. One thing for sure, taste memories and time travel go hand in hand with building a family cookbook.
If you test your recipes and ask for opinions from family members (maybe at an upcoming family reunion or wedding), you’re bound to get a lot of stories — some may even be suitable to include with that old favorite recipe in the family cookbook.