Monday, March 22, 2010

What's your madeleine?

Awhile ago, in Anthro 372, we were discussing the role of food in evoking memory and identity... Food is a powerful tool, connecting us with people, time and place, and it seems that everyone has their own food (a baked good, a packaged snack, an entire meal, anything), that is laden with emotional and symbolic significance. What we eat reveals what we are, and what we are not (Belasco: 26).

I thought I would leave a small blurb from Volume I of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time), that describes his memory in connection with the madeleine, as well as an 'exercise' from Belasco's "Food: The Key Concepts" on the same topic.

(These ones are from Duchess)

"And suddenly the memory returned. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray,... my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of lime-flower tea. And once I recognized the taste of the... madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-flowers..., immediately the old grey house... rose up like the scenery of a theatre to attach itself to the little pavilion, opening on to the garden, which had been built out behind it for my parents; and with the house the town... the Square, where I was sent before luncheon, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine (Belasco: 25)."

For class, we were asked to come up with our own madeleine, but of course, I'm not grading you, so I'll just leave the 'assignment' details. Here are some things to help you along if you'd like:
  • Is [your madeleine] a positive, negative, or somewhere in between?
  • Is it a comfort food or a discomfort food? A medium for conflict or reunion?
  • Is it homemade or commercial?
I've decided that my madeleine is Yorkshire Pudding... my Mom's. A little too doughy, but a great reminder of big family meals during my Nanny's visits.

(Belasco, Warren. 2008. "Food: The Key Concepts". Berg: Oxford UK.)


A Canadian Foodie said...

These look crazy good. I love madeleines! The class you are taking sound so incredibly interesting - can you send me a message about what class it is exactly? My madeleine is my mom's shortbread cookies. I make them now... but the smell, and the taste, every year evokes a tingle throughout my being and takes me back - shrinks me back, actually, to my childhood home in my childhood room and the aroma wafting through the house wrapped me in security and in hope. I love them. Every year, no matter how many years... the same moment washes over me the first time I make them. Thanks for that.

Marianne said...

Thanks for sharing, Valerie. I love hearing what other people's madeleines are! Those shortbread cookies sound perfectly comforting. I love food's ability to transport us!

Maki said...

I have a "negative" madeline story. It's nanaimo bars. My mom never bought cookies or desserts except for this one time. My siblings and I were so excited and we enjoyed them all. That ended up in food poisoning. It was such a horrid experience that I now can not stand the look or smell of them. It actually turns my stomack and it's such an unbelievably strong memory that has lasted well into my adult life.

Marianne said...

That sounds awful. I don't think I've ever had an experience with food that has put me off for life, but those (positive or negative) physical reactions sure stick with us.

Northern Beauty Seeker said...

I think my madeleine has to be oranges - or anything with orange in it. When I was pregnant I craved orange anything, spinach and salmon. Of the three, the scent of orange has stayed with me the most as a powerful reminder of a wonderful phase of my life. Great question!

(great to meet you in photography class - your blog looks fab!)

Marianne said...

Thanks, Ms. S! Great meeting you too. I was glad to have someone there with a similar camera... and thanks for helping me when it came to finding some of the function buttons on the camera! Hope you found a spot for your print!

Great madeleine! What a great food and scent to connect with. The ones that connect you with those great times in life are certainly the best to have.