6 Ataste Down Memory Lane

Certain foods reactivate and exercise the memory or emotional circuits that were associated with them in the first place. In a memorable passage from Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust describes the overwhelming pleasure of childhood memories and associations unleashed by the taste of a madeleine cookie dipped in tea:

At once I had recognized the taste of the crumb of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-flowers which my aunt used to give me... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like the scenery of a theatre... and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers; the square where I was sent before luncheon, the street along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. ..so that in that moment all thefíowers in our garden and in M. Swann'spark, and the water-lilies on the Vivonneand the goodfolk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole ofCombray and of its surroundings, taking their proper shapes and growing solid, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup oftea.

•Childhood Revisited.

Look for foods that might rekindle childhood memories—a baseball-park hotdog with that neon-yellow mustard, birthday cake and ice cream, Popsicles, s'mores, macaroni and cheese—or any ethnic or regional foods you used to eat as a child and no longer do.

Re-create your first meal with a spouse or lover. Foods you had on a first date or at your wedding can bring back to life long-dormant synapses and provide you with a new route for enhancing past and future memories.

•Don't Forget the Stuffing.

The foods of Thanksgiving, Passover, Christmas, and the Fourth of July can conjure up all the feelings and memories of holidays past. One taste and, like Proust, you'll be recalling the smell of your grandfather's pipe and your Aunt Rosie telling you not to play under the table. Try creating one of these meals again on a day that's not a holiday.

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