Food Triggering Happy Memories and Warming our Hearts

Why are you cutting up all those apples?

Being the cardio freak that I am, I need my fix so every few days I go over my friends place to work out on their elliptical machine.   He and his wife run a small boutique bungalow resort on Koh Lanta.  It’s very cool, Bali style, quiet, romantic and they have the best BBQ Special Dinners every week in high season.  Since it’s low season and they are closed, they use their covered outdoor dinning area as their main living area.  There is a rather large table that can seat about 10 people which is most excellent as many people drop by each day to visit. It’s actually a busy but warm and inviting atmosphere.  Not to mention their 3 Beagles and 2 darling St. Bernard sisters, who happily greet all visitors with a canine receiving line.  In low season the locals on Koh Lanta take advantage of the down time to socialize and get caught up before high season and the tourists flocking back our small island in paradise.

IMG_1661When I arrived there that day my friend, who is usually relaxing and enjoying his morning solace, was busy peeling and cubing apples.  He had a big bag of apples in front of him along with a pile of peels and seed, and a big bowl of cubed apples.  He looked up at me over his glasses and told me that he’s making a breakfast surprise.  Of course, with his serious German expression, he clarified that is wasn’t a breakfast surprise, but rather a dish call Breakfast Surprise.  His seriousness and totally deadpan humorous tone told me that more explanation would follow.  But it didn’t, not for a while.  And as he was giving me the business with his expression, I didn’t push him.

I greeted the critters, endured their slobbering, and got myself organized on the elliptical starting into my hour workout.  In low season the elliptical machine is moved out of their storage room and placed beside their big table so anyone working out isn’t far from the conversation.   Finally he looked up with this big wonderful smile.  He’s such a character!  He told me that he’s been thinking about his mother a lot lately, so he decided to make this dish that she created for him when he was a little kid.

I don’t often see this man smiling but he was beaming from ear to ear as he was dicing the apples.  The process of preparing the Breakfast Surprise seemed to bring him very close to his mother.  I could feel a calmness off him.   The thinking about his mother had triggered happy memories that included one of his favourite childhood dishes.  And then the food itself continued to trigger happy memories about this mother.  For sure, he was caught up in a wonderful happy memory and food cycle.

And what a crazy odd dish it was from my German friend’s mother, as there was really nothing German about it.  It was made from an eclectic mix of many cultures and tastes.   To make it you cook diced apples in butter, then stir in creme and curry paste and continue cooking turning to simmer once all is hot.  After simmering for a while, toss in diced ham and chopped hard boiled eggs and continue cooking.  Once ready the mixture is heaped onto toast and served with love.IMG_1663

Happy memories and food triggering each other is a super interesting phenomenon.  This circle of food triggering happy memories, and our happy memories triggering food, is a tool we can use as a relaxation technique to help us chill, de-stress and/or enjoy a few private moments.

I love maple syrup.  It reminds me of the beginning of spring in Canada, when the snow is still on the ground but melting.  On a Sunday in early spring my family would all head out of the city to a Sugar Shack, a small building on a Maple Tree Farm where they are boiling the sap from the maple trees.  It boils for hours and hours to become Maple Syrup.  We’s prepare be given a small tray and pack a layer of snow on it, and then have the hot syrup poured over snow.  It instantly turns into maple taffy, the most delicious and decadent candy ever.  It pulls apart into long tendrils that are hot and so deliciously sweet and you stuff them in your mouth.  My happy memories of childhood fortunately don’t include memories of the tummy ache I always got from too much maple taffy.  To this day maple syrup still gives me happy memories of family and the wonderful sweetness of the taffy.  I can get caught up in these memories which is a perfect way to relax, de-stress and to even remind myself that growing up in Canada was pretty good.

We can also use this phenomenon to feel closer to people no longer in our lives, or those far away.  Whenever I’m feeling sad about some of the friends I’ve lost I think about the good times with them, and this often triggers happy memories of sharing a special food or drink.  And then conversely, when I drink Proscceo I have happy memories of my friend’s husband who passed away last year.  We would always have at least one bottle of Proscceo when we got together, it became our thing.

Another happy memory happens whenever I see someone having a grilled cheese sandwich.  This makes gives me happy memories about out of town shopping days when I was a kid with my mother and her Scottish friend.  We’d go to Montreal or Watertown, NY over the US border for these long days full of travel, shopping and laughter, we really had a lot of fun.  I was only a little girl but on the outtings they made me feel like I was one of the gang.  We always had grilled cheese  sandwiches for lunch and  I still associate these sandwiches with those fun days and I cherish the happy memories of how great I was feeling back then.

What foods trigger your happy memories?  Are you feeling somewhat sad?  Think about your favourite foods and happy memories are sure to fill your thoughts and warm your heart.

It’s all good!


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