Foods that “stir” memories

This post is about food-induced memories.  Those scenes from the past that appear in response to a smell or taste.  Remember when your mom made cornbread muffins?  Or a peach pie?  The scent of it drifting unseen but powerfully through the house.  Do you suddenly remember the color of the the kitchen curtains or the tree just outside the window?  Or the anticipation of getting your own serving?

Scents, smells, and aromas have been proven to evoke long term memory recall.  It’s called “olfactory memory”.

For me, it’s the pungent aroma  of onion, mustard and garlic whenever I make potato salad like Mama used to make.

My mom was well-known for her tasty, mushy concoction of soft potatoes and crunchy veggies.  “Nanny’s” potato salad was always requested for a family get-together, when we served up barbecued chicken, hamburgers, or just spaghetti!

She liked to garnish it with a radish cut up like a rose.  It was an attractive finishing touch.

But, if she didn’t have a radish, she thought that a peppermint candy would be a similar substitute.  After a while, that candy melted its red sugar into the tangy potato salad, and the effect was….well, different!  So whenever I make her potato salad, I think of a mushy redpeppermint sitting in the middle… and no one saying a word about it.  And how proud she was of her signature recipe.

What foods spur those memories for you?  In the comment section, share your memorable food.  I’d love to hear about what you remember, or even the recipe you recall.

As a gift, I thought I’d share my mom’s recipe.  It’s your call, whether you want to garnish with a radish or a peppermint… Let me know how it turns out.




Boil 3 to 5 lbs. potatoes, cool, then remove skins.  Cut up in 1″ or smaller cubes.  Add 1/3 c. small-sliced green onions, 1/2 c. finely-chopped

celery, a large jar of pimientos, 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic, 1/2 c. mayo, 1/4 c. mustard.  You can add chopped green olives and

chopped dill pickles for a tangy taste.  Or 1/2 c. sweet relish, for a milder version.  Mix together and chill for a couple of hours to let the flavors

merge.  Really good with grilled chicken, ham, or spaghetti.



4 thoughts on “Foods that “stir” memories

  1. My favorite memory is smelling home baked bread my Swedish grandmother made every Saturday. I used to sneak in the kitchen when she was making the dough and grab a pinch of it when she wasn’t looking. I guess the flavor of the yeast was what I liked best. Then waiting for bread to come out of oven and putting butter on the warm bread as I couldn’t wait for her to cut it. My favorite of all the breads was Swedish rye. Heaven!!
    We are doing great, Ruby. Please send me your phone #.

    1. Hi Pat!! I’m glad to know that you had these special thoughts in response to my article on foods. I could almost smell it when I read about fresh bread…yummm.
      Were you living in Sweden then? I’m in the looong process of writing a book about my ancestors. My grandpa was from Denmark. Anyway, we were happy your home hadn’t been touched by the fires. I did see your daughter Kim’s SUV with her business and I tried to find her in Round Rock’s business pages online, but couldn’t find her. YOu told me she lives here, right? I’d like to get in touch with them. We have the same cell numbers, but you may not have had them anyway. So, mine is (915) 494-9400 and Bob’s is (915) 588-8799.
      We need to spend some time catching up :>) Love always, Rube

  2. Your mother’s potato salad sounds a lot like my mom’s (without the peppermint)
    I rarely eat anyone’s potato salad, because it just doesn’t measure up to what I remember. And with the potato salad came my grandpa out grilling chicken in his back yard which had a huge grape arbor across the whole back of the house that shaded us in the hot sun. Those grapes were the sweetest green grapes I ever had. Thanks for reminding me to take the time to enjoy those memories.

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