There is much to be said about the power of food memories: their ability to transcend time and space, their emotional evocation, and the desire to recreate them all impact who we are as humans and individuals.

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Oxford defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”.

For me, there is perhaps no greater trigger of nostalgia than food and the smell of food.

Food memories have played an integral role in who I am, and who Tara is, and serve as a strong foundation for Sip and Feast.

But we are not unique in this respect, and while preparing for this episode we found there is a bit of science involved.

Close up shot of Spaghetti alla Nerano in grey plate.

Decoding food memories

I recently read an article in the BBC about the power of food memories in which the author, Susanna Zaraysky, talks about the strong feelings experienced when eating the same berries she enjoyed as a toddler in the former USSR.

She too was intrigued by the power of food memories and sought out Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of psychology at U Mass Amherst, to explore this a bit more.

“Food memories involve very basic, nonverbal, areas of the brain that can bypass your conscious awareness. This is why you can have strong emotional reactions when you eat a food that arouses those deep unconscious memories. You can’t put those memories into words, but you know there is something that the food triggers deep within your past”, Whitbourne told Zaraysky.

In this episode we discuss our own food memories, from Ziggy’s Deli’s Texas Style Chicken, to the smell of yeasty bread, and from fried zucchini to lemon Italian ices, and the power they have over us to this day.

Shrimp fra diavolo in pan with tongs.

Resources

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