Ever wondered why you innately love a certain food or a certain dish? Or why it makes you happy even just to get a whiff of a certain combination of smells? Marcel Proust (b.1871 d.1922) highlighted an act of his involuntary memory when consuming a madeleine dipped in tea, in his much-celebrated novel 'In Search of Lost Time' and it has been highlighted as a famous descriptive passage but I am more interested in the actual food memories themselves...
Food memories are some of the strongest memories a person will have, the Olfactory system - or sense of smell - will cue an amazing emotional response to certain things from as far back as 6 years old. In layman's terms, for example, when I have a 'pink & white' ice-cream from the Bluebird Cafe in Lee-on-Solent, it provokes great joy within me; and although not associated to one particular memory, there is a powerful connection to the food item because it was a treat to have one growing up.
It is not always easy to pin down tastes and smells and their specific association and it is probably difficult to pinpoint something off the top of your head, however you will know if you come across a combination of smells and tastes that has been ingrained into your subconscious memory from childhood. The reaction is usually a positive reaction although at first you may not realize why, or perhaps you will make the connection instantly depending on how strong the trigger is.
The following are examples of things from my childhood that trigger a response for me:
These food memories are valued and utilized by chefs - namely one Heston Blumenthal has garnered recognition for his series of shows looking at 'Fantastical Food' evoking the wonder and excitement of childhood food. Consider your food choices and those of others next time you eat out - do you always order ice-cream after a meal as it evokes childhood dessert? Does your father always order beef because it my remind him of a nice Sunday roast growing up in times of austerity? A.