The Memory Of Food
I was grocery shopping, and a display caught my eye.
Figs were on sale.
Figs were not on my shopping list, but they were on sale. And so, I indulged in purchasing the delightful little fruits, as they’ve always felt like a treat. A luxury. A culinary delight to brighten anyone’s day.
The next morning, my husband and I were having breakfast; He had Cheerios, but I had the figs. And when I took my first bite, I suddenly remembered the giant fig tree that my Aunt Reba had on her farm in South Carolina.
It’s been years since I’ve been to that farm. Decades, even. I don’t remember the tiny details of the house or even the street’s name where it was located. But I do remember that tree and those figs. They were delicious, like having candy for breakfast — and as a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
The taste of those instantly brought back memories of my Aunt Reba, too.
Aunt Reba, a sprightly, passionate, loving lady. She was tiny in stature but gigantic in spirit. She welcomed the ones she loved with open arms and fought for the ones she loved with everything she had. Aunt Reba went against the grain before going against the grain was trendy or hip.
She was the type of woman who broke the mold.
She was one of my grandmother’s favorite humans, too.
The memory of food is a powerful thing.
If you think about it, within those morsels and with every bite holds a story. A memory from someone who poured their love for you into a meal, or a time when you celebrated something monumental or magical within your life. Or perhaps the memory is rooted in tradition — that it’s not so much the food that you delight in, but the stories that go along with it.
Like making matzoh ball soup with your great aunt, homemade pasta with your Nonna, or baking chocolate chip cookies with your mom.
Like learning about what your ancestors ate — and how they made magnificent meals out of the little options they had.
Like learning how to recreate the holidays that you adored as a little kid, and making every effort to build that t for your own children, and grandchildren, and then some.
My grandmother passed away six months ago, and Aunt Reba several years before that — but every time I decide to make her famous potatoes, or sauce, or chicken — it’s as if she’s sitting there at the table with us, laughing, and smiling and dazzling the dinner guests with her stories.
I imagine she and Aunt Reba are now holding court in the heavens, doing their best to dazzle fellow angels, together.
Memory is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information — and sometimes, that information that you hold onto isn’t data or science or even a recipe — but the knowledge you were once, and still are, loved.