Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Taste and the rapid journey through time

Lately I've been trying to be more creative in my grocery-shopping endeavors. Despite my increased amount of time and income, I still find that I buy mostly college food, the five staples being milk, bread, chicken patties, chips & salsa, and applesauce. I still prepare my standard four things for my lunches, which is barely enough to tide me over until an early dinner, and I often find myself whipping up a good ol' college dinner of loaded instant potatoes and oven-baked chicken patties.

The cost of "real" food hasn't been the issue here, but rather the effort it requires to make it edible. And the fact that I'm usually just cooking for me (I sometimes wonder if my roommate understands the meaning of "three meals a day"), which means if I make something awesome I'll be eating leftovers for several days.

So, I have been trying a little harder to expand my food horizon and to make sure I have more entertaining things to at least snack on or pack in my lunch. After all, everyone knows that I love food, and it would be a shame to continue the college tradition of cheap, convenient, and passably good food.

This plan has backfired somewhat, as I've bought stuff like Nutella (I recently discovered the stuff and now I'm addicted) and little goodies wrapped in convenient little packages. So I've been making myself browse the fresh produce section of Smith's for more than just carrots (blech--see, I do care about my physical well-being, otherwise I wouldn't keep forcing myself to eat raw carrots sans Ranch during my trapped-in-the-office lunch hours).

Unfortunately though, I'm not a big fan of fresh fruits and veggies. I love applesauce, apple juice, and apple pie, but I rarely eat just a plain apple. Cooked carrots are yummy, but I've developed something of a repulsion for raw ones. I usually buy pre-made salad rather than lettuce because I'm too lazy to cut it up. Raw broccoli is yucky, but I love it when it's cooked. I love dried apricots, but fresh ones aren't that tasty. Even peaches and strawberries usually end up getting smushed up a bit and sprinkled with sugar before I feel comfortable eating them. (However, I absolutely LOVE fresh pears, tomatoes, and corn, though they must be of the homegrown variety, preferably from Grandpa Jackson's garden.)

Wow. It's taking me a really long time to get to my point. Fast forward to when, a few weeks ago, a saw a line of dried fruits in colorful little bags--apricots, apples, cherries, etc.--and decided to check them out. Usually I buy craisens, but, because I was being adventurous, I picked the dried cherries instead, a food I haven't tasted in at least 15 years but vaguely remembered loving when I was really little.

Well, today I opened that bag of dried cherries. The smell wasn't particularly inviting, but I popped a few in my mouth anyway. After chewing for a few seconds, the flavor exploded in my mouth and sent my taste buds a-flurry, and my mind was flooded with memories from my childhood--sneaking dried cherries from Grandma Jackson's living room that Grandpa had brought home from the cherry plant, rediscovering my love for them when a friend in 4th grade shared her lunch with me, and working in the cherry plant during two horrible summers (incidentally, I can no longer eat fresh cherries, but, again, I will devour them in pies or in dry form).

I don't think I've ever experienced so many sensations from eating just one small thing. I've heard that, of the five senses, smell is the one most strongly associated with memories, but I think taste should go right up there with smell. Simply by chewing a few dried cherries today, I remembered the delight I felt as I whenever Grandpa brought them home, and I remembered things I had completely forgotten about, particularly experiences I had while living with Grandma and Grandpa Jackson. All in just a few seconds.

For example, I remember eyeing the bucket of dried cherries when Mom told me that someone had been fired (at my dad's work, I think) and I immediately envisioned a man being engulfed by a ring of fire while his wife and small children watched in tears; I then lived in fear for a few days that my dad would get "fired." I remember lining up against the wall with Tiffany on the first day of school to sport our brand-new clothes, and that everyone commented on the fact that I was almost as tall as Tiffany (though it would be years before I finally outgrew her for good). I remember eating those cherries with Tiffany and getting a stomach ache. I remember visiting Kimberly in the hospital when she was born, and that Tiffany shut my fingers in the car door and we had to go back inside the hospital to get a band-aid to make my injury all better. I remember the time that me, Mom, Grandma Jackson, and Kimberly were running errands, and I looked back at Kimberly in her car seat and her face was covered in blood because she could not scratching those mosquito bites. I remember the time Mom and Dad took us to fly kites in the big field across the street from the grandparents' house; it was extremely windy, the weeds were almost as tall as I was, and I had an Ariel kite that didn't fly very good (I think Kimberly had Flounder, who took to flying much better than Ariel did).

Not all of these memories have anything to do with dried cherries (at least, I don't think so; for all I know, I could have been hoarding a bag of cherries in my pocket when Dad took us to see Kimberly, or I could have been craving them when Mom and Dad spontaneously took us kite-flying). But somehow, eating those dried cherries today unleashed a torrent of memories from the short period of time during which I was obsessed with those dried-up little morsels of fruit.

Food is a powerful thing, y'all.


  1. I'm sorry I slammed your fingers in the door. It was an accident.

  2. lol - this made me bust of laughing, and my co-worker gave me a funny look. Just thought you should know...