“This is really good but you should try to make potato bread sometime, it’s delicious.” I’ve probably heard my Dad utter a version of that fifty times to date, usually just after eating a slice of my fresh sourdough bread.
I love how eating good food tugs at an invisible, interconnected web of food-memories we’ve constructed over the course of our lifetimes. This complex web, with scattered connections between foods, smells, experiences, and memories, is gradually filled in and ever-evolving: it shapes the corpus of foods we enjoy, giving them significance in place and time. Perhaps the construction of this web is instilled at a primal level, maybe it’s a way we’ve evolutionarily progressed to favor foods that provide proper nourishment by exciting our senses, pushing out hollow foods that provide nothing or are uninteresting. I believe it’s one of the many reasons we’ve stayed alive for so long, eating the things we need instead of those we don’t.
But this web might not be as invisible and hidden as it might first seem. We see evidence of the intermingled connections each time we sit down to eat: “this cake reminds me of that one you made 2 years ago when…,” or “this salad reminds me of that time we were traveling through Italy and stopped in at…” In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say just about every meal I eat with my family we talk about other meals eaten, or other dishes enjoyed in the past — and its through that traversal of the food-memory web where we are instantly, and clearly, transported to a significant time and place in our otherwise blurred history.
In any case, my Dad must have many connections back to a distant potato bread. He often mentions his Mother and the bread she would make them as a kid: 100% potato to flour by weight, small bits of potato throughout, creamy, soft and of course, starchy.