Food Memory

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” — Virginia Woolf

One of my friends enjoys cooking. He thinks cooking can release his pressure and stimulate his creativity. Recipes can be decoded and transformed into artwork. Cooking is sharing food and nurturing relationship.

Weeks ago we reunited before his leaving to study abroad, along with some of his old classmates. At his request, everything we ate and drank from Glazed Lemon Pound Cake to Sangria followed the principles of “seasonality” and “consistency.”

“Food is memory,” he claimed.

I tried hard to recall my childhood memory, searching for any unforgettable smell or taste. I felt pathetic because almost nothing remained and even worse, I found myself poor in describing food. What lingered in the memory was my parents’ quarrels and fight over the table, which eclipsed delicacies, if any.

“The mood and meaning instead are memories,” I argued.

The music, fragrance and tableware might help create a pleasant atmosphere. However, it is the human interaction that makes a dining experience memorable or terrible. Though smells and tastes often evoke memories from the past, it is the relationship with the diner that decides how you feel and what you remember.

What did food mean to me?

The food memory was vague to me because food was something to maintain life, not something to enjoy or enrich life. At the time when hurt was felt more than love, food played too minor a role to conjure up any vivid image.

On that day of reunion, he made “Pork Stewed in Coconut Milk” for all of us. He took the dining experience seriously; he took us seriously.

Everyone poured out heart to one another. We shared love and loss, fear and failure, adventure and anxiety, confusion and conflict, breakup and breakthrough, risk and romance, and everything within and beyond. We shared food in love.

To me, a person who seldom cooked, for the first time I found food memory retentive. The taste and smell of the ingredients were remembered long. The memory was prodigious that I wanted to create and experience more.

I resolve to make a change in life. I want to alter and renew my food memory by learning cooking and sharing food.

I want to remember my friend by sharing his passion for cooking.

Friendship is memory.

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