What triggers memories?

When you least expect it, a smell takes you back to a place you have not seen or visited in years. The actual ability to smell is linked to memory. Research has shown that the presence of a specific odor increases the vividness of remembered information or situations.

Flicking chickens in the kosher butcher shop next to my father’s dry goods store, was an odor that never quite left me. Not that it was a delightful aroma, but it was a fragrance that stayed in my mind and my nostrils.

I don’t remember exactly the first time I ate pizza, but the scent of Italian food takes me back to the Bronx. I guess it was at Luigi’s, an Italian restaurant on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx. I was weaned on kosher food and my mother’s idea of spaghetti sauce was Heinz 57 Ketchup. Hot pizza was a whole new sensation to my teenage heart and taste.

Many years ago when I was in Seoul Korea, there was a bucket brigade of double barreled yoked farmers, walking down the evening streets, collecting human waste to fertilize the fields for their crops to grow better. Believe me, you did not want to be around these gentlemen.

The scent would knock you over.

Another scent I recall was my grandmother’s pickles which she made by the jarful. Those pickles are still the best, I have ever eaten. Throughout the years, I have tasted this garlic delicacy in various restaurants, but none can compare to the taste and consistency of my bubby’s. Last week, I ordered chicken soup with matzoh balls at a diner. I was expecting a clear consomme with the matzoh balls, but the chef overdid himself by chopping in celery and carrots. That threw the scent and taste off for me.

I recall the first time I tried Chinese Spare-Ribs. Chinese Ribs are lean and crisp off the bone. When I order Southern style Spare Ribs, loaded with tomato sauce and garlic, I don’t find them as appealing as the dry, lean, crisp Chinese Ribs.

I have been accused of being a picky eater and I guess it is true. If the aroma and of course the taste displeases me, I push the food away.

Tell me of your favorite scents, tastes and your not so favorite scents and tastes that trigger memories for you. I am interested! It sparks a good conversation.

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