A few years ago, I was visiting my grandparents in Southern California with my sister. One day, my grandfather had decided that him, my sister and I would visit Chinatown in Los Angeles. However, he needed to do something before we took the Metrolink into Los Angeles and my sister and I spent time in Downtown Upland.
After looking at the various shops, we became hungry and decided to walk into a place called Deli Zone. We decided to order a root beer float and a grilled cheese sandwich, which was swiss cheese on sourdough bread.
Sitting outside, we took sips from the float and consumed the delectable sandwich. After this trip, I then tried to find a grilled cheese on sourdough bread that came close to the taste of the one I had at Deli Zone. So far, the closest I can get is one that I make in my own kitchen using sourdough bread from Trader Joe’s and swiss cheese from anywhere.
I identify as a native Californian and adoptive Chicagoan. I always felt out of place in Iowa and spent at least 11-12 of the years I lived there wishing I was back in California. For me, any time I eat a grilled cheese sandwich, it brings a nostalgic bliss from being reminded of Southern California, which I would move back to if I didn’t have to drive. The same thing goes with eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry preserves. The latter has resulted in me searching every grocery store in Chicago that I even stand outside of waiting for the bus to see if they carry Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry preserves because my local grocery store doesn’t. (I eventually did find it, unfortunately it costs as much as a box of the tea I buy. But it’s worth it.)
Because of what those foods remind me of, I find preparing and consuming those dishes to be very comforting. After I’ve had a tiring day of research, lectures and homework, sometimes I just need a grilled cheese sandwich, even if it’s 90 degrees outside and the air conditioner in my apartment is on full blast.
And because of my mother’s cooking, various foods remind me of my mother or of home, such as marzipan candies or apfelstrudel or latkes. (I’m not Jewish, but when teaching my sister and I about Jewish holidays and traditions, my mother made latkes, complete with applesauce.) I would assume that if I ate homemade tortillas or hamantaschen, I would be reminded of cooking in the kitchen with my mother.
Similarly, when I eat out, certain foods remind me of good times. Crème brûlée at Lockwood makes me think of the lighting design for Spring Awakening, which I gushed over while consuming a crème brûlée at that restaurant. I associate food at Ann Sather, particularly the cinnamon rolls, with good times because anytime I’ve ever been to Ann Sather since my preliminary visit has been with friends or family and I’ve always enjoyed being with those people. When I eat at Mexican restaurants in Chicago, I tend to see if they have fish tacos because I also associate that with happy memories in my mind.
There are certain things that trigger memories of events. They can be as simple as someone mentioning a word or phrase or an action a person does. But the scents and tastes of food and their triggers are currently something that’s fascinating me.
What are some foods that you associate with memories?