by Carrie Conner
Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are.
– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Warning: After reading this, the next time you see your mother, partner or best friend you may be overcome by uncontrollable hunger.
We are hardwired to remember scent. For this reason, food has the power to trigger memories secreted in the most primal part of our brains. This prevents us, for example, from poisoning ourselves or eating rotten food.
Imagine your favorite meal as a child. A single memory of the taste and texture of the food can transport you back to a moment in time. In a flash you recall where you were and who you were with when you were eating it.
I recently read Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl, former New York Times food critic and editor in chief at Gourmet magazine. She closed each of her chapters with recipes rather than photographs. In the epilogue to the book, she writes:
As I was trying to think about telling my story through food, it occurred to me that the recipes could function the way photographs did in other people’s books. I wanted readers to get to know the characters through the food they cooked and ate, to be able to taste the time.
After reading that passage, I immediately began thinking of my family. As I thought of my grandpa Gallo, I saw huge, dented pots of spaghetti holding the sauce he always had simmering on his stove. Thinking of my brother reminded me of apricot jam because it was the only thing he would eat the entire year he was four. Thoughts of my sister conjured images of onions – she hated them and threw a fit if Mom cooked with them, but then ordered onion rings if we went out to eat.
Every time I thought of a person in my life, an instant image of food floated up, and with it, a story.
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An Invitation from VoiceCatcher
Willing to share what this prompt inspires you to write? Each month we might publish some responses to the VoiceCatcher prompts. Send your responses to our prompts to editors(at)voicecatcher(dot)org. Notes on sending your responses to our prompts:
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A friend once asked Carrie Conner why she writes. “Because I have to,” she said. “You mean like publish or perish?” he asked. “No,” she said, “It’s more like … breathing.” Carrie has spent 20 years as a staff and features journalist and freelance copywriter for a variety of publications and companies. One day, while interviewing an emerging novelist about her new book release, she realized she was done writing about other people’s accomplishments. She’s currently putting together a yet-untitled collection of short stories and a screenplay.